Peripheral neuropathy is a condition that affects the peripheral nerves (neck and spinal cord) because of trauma. The peripheral nerves are essential to the human body and regulate many different elements. For example, some of the functions of the peripheral nerves are to send signals to the brain and sensory information to the central nervous system.
Causes of Peripheral Neuropathy
The list of causes is lengthy. There is not a lot that people know about this condition, other than it is acquired with trauma (like an injury). While this is the case, there are also medical conditions that list peripheral neuropathy as a symptom of it.
Older individuals are at risk for this condition. As we age, our bodies lose strength and become frailer. When this occurs, any small falls or slips can result in severe injuries that are difficult to treat. Some examples of trauma to the nerves include:
- Falling from high spaces
- Slipping on hard surfaces
- Bumping into the spine
Individuals with diabetes are more likely to develop this condition. It is especially common in individuals with autoimmune diseases or tumors, as their bodies struggle to send messages and fight off infections.
Living an unhealthy lifestyle, where you don’t receive proper nutrients, also causes peripheral neuropathy. For example, if you don’t receive enough vitamin B or E, your immune system decreases in strength. Therefore, any trauma or harm that comes to your nerves can be permanent.
Alcoholism has also been linked to this condition as it targets and damages the liver and nervous system when abused.
Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy
The most common symptoms in individuals diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy are:
- Throbbing or burning pain in the spine
- Numbness in hands or feet
- Digestive problems
- Diarrhea and pain
- Low blood pressure and dizziness
- Muscle weakness
Diagnosis of Peripheral Neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy is one of the hardest nervous system disorders to treat. This is because it takes years for a diagnosis. The symptoms described above happen over time. You may not even notice any changes to your body until it becomes severe.
However, you should see a doctor right away if you are feeling tingles or numbness throughout your body. During the visit, it is likely that your doctor will ask questions about your family history with nervous system disorders, including peripheral neuropathy.
If they see it fit, they may recommend a nerve function test. The electromyography (EMG) test uses electrical activity in your muscles to detect if there is damage. Your doctor will insert a thin needle into your arm muscle, also referred to as an electrode. You will then contract and flex your muscles so the machine can record the activity.
If they notice anything abnormal, you will most likely do a nerve or skin biopsy. The doctor will take a small section of your skin or nerve and send it to a lab for further testing. After you have been properly diagnosed, it is time to start a treatment or management plan.
Treatment/Management of Peripheral Neuropathy
There are three primary treatments used; however, there is no cure. The treatments can only manage the symptoms and decrease the pain associated with the condition. Pain killers and anti-seizure medications, for example, may be prescribed by a medical professional to decrease inflammation.
Physical therapy is another treatment method that can be used. If you are suffering from peripheral neuropathy, then you should receive physical therapy to get both feeling and mobility back into your body.
If the cause of this condition is a tumor, then the only option is to remove it — through either surgery or radiation therapy. This, of course, depends on your general health and your doctor’s recommendations since not everyone can have surgery.
Prevention of Peripheral Neuropathy
There are a few ways to prevent the underlying conditions that cause PN. For example, frequently exercising to decrease the chances of diabetes.
You can also consume more minerals and vitamins (like vitamins B and E) to ensure that you do not have a vitamin deficiency.
- Can you develop peripheral neuropathy at a young age? It is possible to develop this condition young, as you can inherit it from one of or both of your parent(s). While it is more common to see in individuals over 60 years old, anyone can develop it from trauma.
- What are other common symptoms associated with peripheral neuropathy? Other symptoms include tingling, numbness, sensitivity to coldness, and experiencing sharp pains.
Healthier Me Today is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment, always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!