Peripheral neuropathy affects around 20 million people in the U.S. It occurs when the nerves (called peripheral nerves) located outside the brain responsible for sending a message to the rest of the body, get damaged.
Peripheral neuropathy starts with pain and numbness in hands and feet and gradually weakens other parts of the body. These nerves tell you when, for example, your feet are cold. It is associated with various underlying medical conditions that can lead to muscle weakness if not treated on time.
Facts on Peripheral Neuropathy
- Neuropathy can affect the sensory nerves, autonomic nerves, and motor nerves. Sometimes it affects the whole nerve set, including a facial nerve.
- Diabetic patients have a high risk of developing neuropathy.
- There’s no common cause; physical trauma, metabolic problems, repetitive injury, side effects of drugs, infection, and toxins exposure are all possible causes.
4 Stages of Neuropathy
When you are suffering from neuropathy, it is essential for the surgeons to know which stage you’re so they can evaluate your condition better––the extent of your nerve damage, and suggest treatment options accordingly.
- Numbness & pain: start feeling of a little numbness and pain
- Constant pain: the pain becomes more apparent
- Intense pain: becomes more intense and starts traveling to other parts of the body
- Loss of sensation: start losing all feeling like temperature change
There’s no single cause of neuropathy; sometime several different conditions can damage the nerves.
Common medical conditions and injuries that result in peripheral neuropathy include:
- Poor functioning of the kidney: if your kidneys aren’t healthy, an imbalance of chemicals in the body can give rise to peripheral neuropathy.
- Autoimmune disorders can cause neuropathy.
- Broken bones can put pressure on the nerves.
- HIV Infections can lead to nerve damage.
- Bone marrow disorders.
- Tight plaster casts can put pressure on your nerves.
- Inherited disorders; Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease can be a symptom of neuropathy.
Other causes can trigger neuropathy. For example
- excessive alcohol intake
- chronic liver disease
- insecticides and solvents
- some kinds of cancer– lymphoma
- HIV treatment
- some drugs
- B12 or folate vitamindeficiencies
Diagnosis of Peripheral Neuropathy
Your general physician may refer you to a neurologist if they suspect your chances of developing peripheral neuropathy. The neurologist will first take a history of your symptoms, for how long you’ve been suffering, and examining you for detecting impaired reflexes, muscle weakness, pain, and numbness.
Further, they may conduct your blood and urine test to check if you’ve diabetes or vitamin deficiencies that may be affecting the functioning of nerves. If you’re an alcoholic, the doctor will ask you to take a serious note on stopping alcohol intake as it might be responsible for damaging your peripheral nerves.
Furthermore, the doctor may perform your electromyogram and NCV tests to assess nerve function. Using these electrical tests, doctors get a clear image of the damaged nerves. Many doctors also suggest nerve and muscle biopsies that help provide valuable information about the cause of the neuropathy.
Treatments for Peripheral Neuropathy
As said above, there’s no specific cause for peripheral neuropathy; its effective treatment relies on the cause of your nerve damage. For instance, if peripheral neuropathy is caused by alcohol addiction, it can be treated if you stop consuming alcohol. Likewise, suppose neuropathy occurs due to vitamin deficiency. In that case, you can treat it even reverse it by taking vitamin tablets and adding meals in the diet rich in vitamins.
The intake of toxic substances can result in diabetes, which is the primary cause of peripheral neuropathy, so it is essential to carefully monitor your blood sugar levels. Early diagnosis can help reverse the damage, so you should not delay your appointment with the doctor even if you’re facing a minor health problem.
Natural treatments aren’t a substitute for professional medical care. These treatments can help prevent nerve damage from becoming worse. However, you can’t solely rely on these measures. A doctor’s opinion is a must have.
Non-drug measures include:
- Using heat and cold therapy. Use warm or cold packs to reduce your pain and numbness.
- Wearing cotton fabrics or other light material that do not irritate the skin.
- Protecting sensitive areas with a good quality plastic wound dressing.
It would be best to go for stress-relieving therapies such as yoga and meditation, massage, and nerve relaxation techniques by a professional therapist. Some people find electric stimulation machines useful, but their effectiveness is still not proved. Do not consume supplements without consulting a doctor.
Can herbs control peripheral neuropathy?
Evening primrose oil has been used by many people to reduce neuropathy pain. But it’s better to discuss the use of herbs with your doctor.
Prevention is better than cure. You can prevent peripheral neuropathy by improving your lifestyle and maintaining healthy eating habits. If you eat a nutritious diet daily, do exercise regularly, cut off alcohol consumption, and keep your blood pressure–maintain all these things can help prevent your nerve damage.
The good news for people suffering from neuropathy is that this disease is sometimes reversible. But to reverse the damage, you’ll need to understand the underlying cause of the problem.
Stop eating bad/exposure to toxins, intake a fair amount of vitamin to maintain your sugar level and hormonal deficiencies; gradually, you’ll start noticing neuropathy symptoms resolve themselves. Foods you’ll need to consume include low-fat dairy foods, meats, fish, eggs, and fortified cereals if you’re a vegetarian.
Suppose you or any of your family members has been diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy. In that case, we advise you to visit the best doctor in town who will first want to review your medical history to examine hereditary links to this disorder. There are many treatments for peripheral neuropathy. However, your doctor will decide which treatment will work best for your condition.
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