Symptoms, Treatments And Causes Of Peripheral Neuropathy

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peripheral neuropathy | sensation in hands and feet

Peripheral Neuropathy is a condition with multiple symptoms, which is caused by an array of other conditions.

It is usually caused by trauma to the nerve or by side-effects of another condition or illness. Not all conditions are the same, and the symptoms and length of treatment vary greatly from person to person. The end-result will also vary, as it is dependent on a number of factors such as: the underlying cause of the condition, how long the patient has been suffering, and the degree of damage that has been done. It is also reliant on the available treatments for someone’s particular case. Some conditions are more treatable than others.

sensation in hands and feet
Peripheral Nervous System

There are three types of peripheral nerves, and symptoms are partially reliant on which nerves are being affected.

Sensory Nerves: affect sensation

Autonomic Nerves: affect internal organ functions

Motor Nerves: affect muscles

The symptoms of peripheral neuropathies can be endless, as the majority of symptoms rely on one’s unique combination of hereditary, metabolic, and toxic associations related to the condition, among other reasons. Some symptoms come on suddenly, while others take years to develop and become apparent. Sometimes, patients only feel one or two symptoms, but some patients feel a wide array of symptoms that can be more than debilitating. If left untreated, the illness might progress and become severely complicated to treat.

The symptoms could include:

  • Numbness or tingling
  • Tremors
  • Inflammation
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Sores and lesions
  • Pain
  • Difficulty walking or unsteady gait
  • Loss of balance and coordination
  • Odd feeling of wearing “stockings” or “gloves”
  • Speech Impairment
  • Visual or Audio Impairment
  • Memory loss
  • Loss of cognitive function
  • Auto-immune disorders
  • Thinning of the skin
  • Anemia and easy bruising
  • Bone or muscle degeneration
  • Vital organ and gland dysfunction, including possible failure
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Muscle spasms or twitching
  • Inability to perspire
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Abnormal blood pressure and heart rate
  • Bladder dysfunction
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Paralysis

There are a number of things that could cause peripheral neuropathy, and counteractively, could be caused by neuropathy. Many of the conditions are not necessarily classified as “Peripheral Neuropathies”, although the nerve damage or stimulation is prevalent enough to make the list. In polyneuropathy (multiple nerves being affected at the same time), the onset of the disorder typically starts with the nerves the furthest from the brain or spinal cord and work their way toward the core consecutively. It could start with numbness of the toes, move to the feet, then legs, then lower back, and so on. Mononeuropathy is classified as pain or damage to just one nerve and presents more localized pain, but at some point could develop and affect other nerves, leading to polyneuritis.

Causes and conditions related to Peripheral Neuropathy:

Genetic/Hereditary

Metabolic/Endocrine

  • Diabetes
  • Chronic Renal Failure
  • Porphyria
  • Amyloidosis
  • Liver Failure
  • Hypothyroidism

Inflammatory

Localized/Mononeuritis

Viral

peripheral neuropathy symptoms
Diagram of the Peripheral Nervous System
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Shingles
  • Herpes Simplex
  • Epstein-Barr Virus
  • Cytomegalovirus

Other

Other causes of Peripheral Neuropathy:

  • Alcoholism
  • Drug Abuse
  • Medication Side-Effects
  • Chemotherapy
  • Toxic (Industrial Chemicals or Poison)
  • Nutritional Deficiencies
  • Traumatic Injury
  • Hormonal Imbalances
  • Vascular Damage/Blood Diseases
  • Stress
  • Idiopathic (Unknown Causes)

Treatment For Peripheral Neuropathy

The treatment options vary greatly from patient to patient, as the treatment options will mainly be based on the underlying conditions, rather than the neuropathy itself. Patients with Idiopathic neuropathy rarely find relief to their suffering, except occasionally with the use of pain and/or anti-inflammatory medications.

It is important to closely monitor the symptoms, and remain in a physician’s care, to accurately diagnose and treat all associated ailments. In many cases, strictly following recommended treatments can help heal the damage and prevent it from returning. Not everyone will find complete relief of symptoms and damage, since many related diseases are not fully understood and don’t have many treatment options available. Doctors recommend that patients learn as much as possible about the diseases, symptoms, and treatments available and to seek out emotional support through therapy or support groups.

Medications have been developed to prevent demyelination (prevention of deterioration of the myelin sheath, the covering of the nerve). Although it is common to develop this condition in relation to Peripheral Neuropathy and many associated illnesses, not all cases will require this kind of medication. Additionally, researchers have found that many anti-depressants, serotonin raising mood-elevators, and medicinal cannabis can help alleviate symptoms of PN.

As medical technology has advanced, implantable electronic devices have been developed to help alleviate the pain and might potentially aide in ridding ailments. These devices stimulate the nerves with electrical impulses and help to increase healthy activity between the nerves to the brain and spinal cord. Most of these devices are in developmental stages and awaiting FDA approval and might not help with every disease related to PN, but many sufferers in America may be candidates for the implants in the near future.

Peripheral Neuropathy rarely causes death or shortens the life span on its own, unless complicated by another related disease or cause.

 

Written By: Jenna McClure
Photo credits: neuravite.com, WikiMedia, diabeteshypertension.com, AAFP.org, Stockfreeimages.com

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