Peripheral neuropathy is a condition resulting from damage to the peripheral nerves, which are the nerves that are outside your brain and spinal cord. This often causes weakness, numbness and pain, usually in your hands and feet, but it may also affect other areas of your body.

Peripheral neuropathy can result from a number of causes such as traumatic injuries, infections, metabolic problems, inherited causes and exposure to toxins. One of the most common causes is diabetes.

Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy can vary depending on the type of nerves that are damaged. Sensory nerve damage can cause sensitivity to touch, lack of coordination and falling, or feeling as if you’re wearing gloves or socks when you’re not. Motor nerve damage can cause muscle weakness or paralysis. Autonomic nerve damage can affect bodily functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, and bladder functions.

peripheral Neuropathy

Treatment for peripheral neuropathy aims to manage the condition causing the nerve damage and to relieve symptoms. This can involve medication, physical therapy, or in some cases surgical treatment.

Causes of Peripheral neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy refers to the conditions that result if nerves that carry messages from the brain and spinal cord from and to the rest of the body are damaged or diseased. Several causes could contribute to this condition:

1. Diabetes: This is one of the most common causes. High blood sugar levels can damage nerves throughout the body.

2. Physical injuries: Accidents, falls, fractures, or compressed nerves can cause peripheral neuropathy.

3. Infections or viruses: Certain viral and bacterial infections, such as HIV, Lyme disease, shingles, or Epstein-Barr virus can cause this condition.

4. Autoimmune diseases: Conditions like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and Guillain-Barré syndrome are examples where the immune system attacks the nerves leading to peripheral neuropathy.

5. Nutritional or Vitamin imbalances: Shortage of vitamins, particularly B1, B6, B12, and E can contribute to nerve damage.

6. Certain Medications: Some medications, especially those used for chemotherapy, can cause peripheral neuropathy.

7. Alcoholism: Overconsumption of alcohol can have a toxic effect on nerve tissue, leading to nerve damage.

8. Kidney or liver disease: These conditions can lead to nerve damage because of the toxic substances in the blood that these organs are unable to filter out.

In many cases, however, a specific cause cannot be identified. This is referred to as idiopathic neuropathy.

Risk Factors of Peripheral neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy refers to disorders that occur when nerves that carry messages to and from the brain and spinal cord from and to the rest of the body are damaged or diseased. The following are some of the risk factors associated with peripheral neuropathy:

1. Diabetes Mellitus: The most common cause is diabetes, especially in those who are over 40 years old, have had diabetes for over 25 years, and have poorly controlled blood sugar.

2. Age: The risk of peripheral neuropathy increases with age.

3. Alcoholism: Poor nutritional habits associated with alcoholism can lead to nutrient deficiencies which are contributing factors.

4. Autoimmune diseases: Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and Guillain-Barre syndrome are autoimmune diseases that can cause peripheral neuropathy.

5. Infections: Certain viral or bacterial infections such as Lyme disease, shingles, hepatitis C, HIV, can cause peripheral neuropathy.

6. Certain Medications: Some drugs, including those used for treating cancer (chemotherapy), can cause peripheral neuropathy.

7. Trauma or pressure on the nerve: Injuries from car accidents, sports or falls can cause peripheral neuropathy. Also, continual pressure on nerves, such as prolonged use of crutches or staying in one position for a long time, may cause neuropathy.

8. Nutritional deficiencies: Deficiencies of certain nutrients, including vitamins B6 and B12, can cause peripheral neuropathy.

9. Kidney disorders: Conditions that cause kidney failure may indirectly lead to neuropathy.

10. Heredity: Some people have a genetic predisposition to developing peripheral neuropathy.

Remember, multiple factors can contribute to the development of peripheral neuropathy, and it can be challenging to determine the exact cause, especially in cases when the individual has multiple medical conditions.

Signs and Symptoms of Peripheral neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy refers to general damage or dysfunction of nerves that send signals from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body. The symptoms can vary depending on which types of nerves are affected. Here are some common signs and symptoms:

1. Sensory neuropathy (affects nerves responsible for sensation): Feelings of numbness, tingling, or prickling in your hands or feet, which can spread upward into your legs and arms. Some people describe this sensation as similar to wearing a thin sock or glove. There can be extreme sensitivity to touch, lack of coordination and falling, muscle weakness or paralysis, and burning pain that can be especially bad at night.

2. Motor neuropathy (affects nerves responsible for movement): Muscle weakness, cramps, twitching, or spasms, difficulty with movements that require fine motor skills, such as buttoning your shirt, loss of balance and coordination, low muscle tone leading to damage such as sprained or twisted joints.

3. Autonomic neuropathy (affects the nerves that control organs and involuntary functions): Difficulty controlling bodily functions like bowel or bladder control, dizziness and fainting, sexual problems like erectile dysfunction or vaginal dryness, problems controlling your body temperature, adjustments in heart rate, difficulty digesting food, and even trouble swallowing.

The frequency and severity of symptoms can vary greatly from person to person. It is always recommended to seek professional medical help for management of these symptoms.

Diagnosis Peripheral neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy, often just referred to as “neuropathy,” is a term used to describe a condition in which your peripheral nerves, the nerves that send signals between your brain and spinal cord and the rest of your body, are damaged or diseased. This can result from a variety of causes including traumatic injuries, infections, metabolic problems, inherited causes, and exposure to toxins such as heavy drinking. Diabetes mellitus is one of the most common causes.

Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy commonly start with numbness, tingling, or prickling in your hands or feet, which can spread upward into your legs and arms. It may also cause sharp, throbbing or jabbing pain, extreme sensitivity to touch, or muscle weakness. As it progresses, this condition can cause coordination issues, which may lead to falling, or serious health issues like infection if it reduces or eliminates your ability to feel pain or temperature changes.

Diagnosis usually depends on a full medical history, neurological examination including testing of reflexes, strength, and ability to feel various sensations, and diagnostic tests such as nerve function tests, nerve biopsy, etc. Treatment focuses on managing the condition causing your neuropathy, relieving symptoms, and reaching maximum ability to function. Treatments can vary depending on whether it is affecting motor nerves (that control muscles), sensory nerves (that provide sensation), or autonomic nerves (that control automatic body functions like heart rate and digestion). With sensory involvement, you might need pain control, whereas motor issues might require physical therapy or assistive devices.

Treatment of Peripheral neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy is a condition that results from damage to your peripheral nerves, often causing weakness, numbness and pain, typically in your hands and feet. It can also affect other areas of your body. The treatment for peripheral neuropathy varies widely depending upon the cause, the symptoms, and the progression of the disease.

1. Medications: Over-the-counter pain medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, can relieve mild symptoms. For more severe symptoms, doctors might prescribe painkillers. Antidepressants and anti-seizure medications can effectively treat neuropathic pain.

2. Topical treatments: Capsaicin cream, which contains a substance found in hot peppers, can cause modest improvements in peripheral neuropathy symptoms. Lidocaine patches may also help.

3. Therapies: Various therapies and procedures might help ease symptoms, depending on the type of peripheral neuropathy you have, including physical therapy and occupational therapy.

4. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS): This therapy may help to reduce dependency on pain relievers for some people with peripheral neuropathy.

5. Plasmapheresis and immune globulin therapy: These treatments help suppress the immune system activity, sometimes used in people with certain inflammatory conditions.

6. Lifestyle modifications: Regular exercise, quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and limiting alcohol can all help with managing peripheral neuropathy.

7. Alternative Medicine: Some people can find relief from complementary treatments like acupuncture, herbs, vitamins, and alpha-lipoic acid.

8. Surgical Treatment: In cases where neuropathy is caused by pressure on nerves, surgical intervention may be required.

Always seek advice from a healthcare professional for a diagnosis and personalized treatment plan. Each case is unique and what works best will differ from person to person.

Medications commonly used for Peripheral neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy refers to conditions that result when nerves that carry messages to and from the brain and spinal cord from and to the rest of the body are damaged or diseased. Here are some of the commonly used medications for peripheral neuropathy:

1. Pain Relievers: Over-the-counter pain medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, can relieve mild symptoms.

2. Antidepressants: Tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline, doxepin, or nortriptyline, can relieve mild to moderate symptoms. Also, serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (e.g., duloxetine) can also help.

3. Anti-seizure medications: Medications such as gabapentin and pregabalin, originally developed to treat epilepsy, may relieve nerve pain.

4. Topical treatments: Capsaicin cream, which contains a substance found in hot peppers, can cause modest improvements in peripheral neuropathy symptoms. Lidocaine patches may also help.

5. Opioids: Powerful opioid medications, such as tramadol or oxycodone, may be required to manage more severe pain symptoms when other medications are unsuccessful.

Peripheral Neuropathy

Certainly, the choice of medications completely depends on the individual patient’s symptoms, overall health status, and response to treatment. While they can provide relief, these medications have potential risks and side effects, so it’s important to discuss these factors with a healthcare provider before starting or changing a medication therapy. Always consult a healthcare professional for the best treatment approach.

Prevention of Peripheral neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy, a result of damage to your peripheral nerves, often causes weakness, numbness and pain, usually in your hands and feet. While there is no surefire way to completely prevent peripheral neuropathy, you can reduce your risk and manage the condition in different ways:

1. Healthy lifestyle: Following a balanced diet that is high in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains can aid in maintaining a healthy weight and stabilizing blood sugar levels. Regular physical activity can also boost the overall health of your nerves.

2. Alcohol Moderation: Overindulging can lead to alcohol neuropathy, which damages peripheral nerves. Drinking in moderation or abstaining completely can prevent this.

3. Treating pre-existing conditions: For those with diabetes, it’s crucial to keep blood sugar levels under control to prevent diabetic neuropathy.

4. Proper Foot Care: Regular foot examination and timely treatment of any physical signs can prevent serious foot issues, especially in diabetics.

5. Regular Check-ups: If you have a family history of peripheral neuropathy, regular medical checkups can help catch any emerging issues early.

6. Avoid toxins: Be aware of any chemical toxins in your home and workplace and take steps to reduce your exposure.

7. Vitamins: A deficiency in vitamin B-12 can contribute to peripheral neuropathy. If this is a contributing factor, your doctor may recommend injections, supplements, or a change in diet.

Remember, it’s always best to speak with a healthcare provider before beginning any treatment regimen.

FAQ’s about Peripheral neuropathy

Here are some basic Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) about peripheral neuropathy:

1. What is peripheral neuropathy?
Peripheral neuropathy refers to a condition resulting from damage to your peripheral nerves. These nerves connect your central nervous system (your brain and spinal cord) to the rest of your body. The condition can cause weakness, numbness, and pain, typically in your hands and feet.

2. What causes peripheral neuropathy?
There can be multiple causes, including traumatic injuries, infections, metabolic problems, inherited causes, exposure to toxins, and diabetes.

3. What are its common symptoms?
Symptoms often start gradually and can include numbness, tingling or pricking sensations, sensitivity to touch, muscle weakness, burning pain, and in severe cases, organ or gland dysfunction.

4. How is peripheral neuropathy diagnosed?
The diagnosis can include a full medical history review, neurological examination, blood tests, and other tests like electromyography (EMG) or nerve conduction velocity test (NCV).

5. Can peripheral neuropathy be treated?
Yes, while the condition cannot always be cured, there are treatments that can reduce symptoms. This can include treating the underlying cause, pain management, taking care of your feet, regular exercise, eating a balanced diet, and quitting smoking.

6. Can peripheral neuropathy be prevented?
In some instances, yes. The best chance to prevent it is to manage medical conditions effectively, like diabetes, and to avoid factors that can potentially cause damage to your nerves, such as repetitive motion, cramped positions, smoking, alcohol abuse, and exposure to toxic substances.

7. Is peripheral neuropathy life-threatening?
While it can severely impact the quality of life, peripheral neuropathy itself is not life-threatening. However, it can lead to serious complications, such as falls, burns, skin trauma, infections, etc., due to the lack of sensation.

8. Is peripheral neuropathy a symptom of another disease?
Yes, peripheral neuropathy can be a symptom of a number of different underlying conditions or diseases, including diabetes, kidney disease, certain cancers, and more.

As always, if you think you’re experiencing symptoms of peripheral neuropathy, it’s best to consult with a healthcare professional.

Useful links

Peripheral neuropathy is a result of damage to peripheral nerves, often causing weakness, numbness, and pain, usually in your hands and feet. It can also affect other areas of the body. Here are a few useful links that provide an insight into the condition.

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31996622/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33477371/

Note: Access to some of these resources may be restricted due to the publishers’ policies and may require a subscription or purchase. Always remember to assess and evaluate the credibility of information when referring to these and any other sources.

Complications of Peripheral neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy is a condition where the peripheral nerves (those not in the brain or spinal cord) are damaged or diseased. This usually causes weakness, numbness, and pain, typically in the hands and feet, but it can also affect other areas of the body. Complications of peripheral neuropathy include the following:

1. Infections: Because numbness can reduce awareness of injuries, individuals with peripheral neuropathy may not notice wounds or sores on their feet or hands until significant damage has occurred. This can lead to serious infections, in some cases necessitating amputation.

2. Burn and skin trauma: Due to the loss of sensation, one might not realize they’re getting burns, frostbite or other temperature-related damage until it’s too serious.

3. Falling: The muscle weakness associated with peripheral neuropathy can affect balance, leading to an increased risk of falls.

4. Mobility issues: In extreme cases, peripheral neuropathy can affect the motor nerves leading to difficulties in moving parts of the body.

5. Autonomic nerve dysfunction: If autonomic nerves are affected, it can result in various problems such as abnormal heart rate, decrease in blood pressure, bowel or bladder problems, or sexual dysfunction.

6. Emotional and mental health problems: Living with chronic pain or disability from peripheral neuropathy can significantly affect a person’s quality of life, leading to depression and anxiety.

In summary, peripheral neuropathy can disrupt daily life in significant ways. Thus, prompt diagnosis and management are crucial to reduce the risk of severe long-term complications.

Home remedies of Peripheral neuropathy

Peripheral Neuropathy can lead to discomfort, numbness, and pain in the feet and hands. If you’re dealing with this condition, here are some at-home techniques you can try to help manage symptoms:

1. Exercise Regularly: This increases the blood flow to your nerves which helps in their functioning. It also will help control the blood sugar levels, a major cause of peripheral neuropathy.

2. Healthy Diet: Consuming a balanced diet can help manage symptoms. Foods rich in B vitamins, such as whole grains, lean meats, and legumes, are especially beneficial for nerve health. Maintaining normal blood sugar levels can also prevent further damage to nerves.

3. Plenty of Rest: Adequate sleep and rest give your nerves the opportunity to repair and heal which can improve symptoms.

4. Warm Bath: Soaking in a warm bath can increase blood circulation, reducing pain and numbness associated with peripheral neuropathy.

5. Capsaicin cream: It’s a natural option for pain management. It can help by decreasing the intensity of pain signals sent through your nerve endings.

6. Acupuncture: Though not a home remedy, it may be beneficial in relieving peripheral neuropathy symptoms for some.

7. Limit Alcohol and Avoid Smoking: Both of them can cause nerve damage and can exacerbate the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.

Remember, it’s important to check with your healthcare provider before starting any new treatment plans. Home remedies may complement medical treatments but are not substitutes for medical care in cases of painful and chronic conditions like peripheral neuropathy.

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Last Update: January 10, 2024