What Is Peripheral Neuropathy?
Neuropathy is a collection of disorders that occurs when nerves of the peripheral nervous system (the part of the nervous system outside of the brain and spinal cord) are damaged. The condition is generally referred to as peripheral neuropathy, and it is most commonly due to damage to nerve axons. Neuropathy usually causes pain and numbness in the hands and feet. It can result from traumatic injuries, infections, metabolic disorders, and exposure to toxins. One of the most common causes of neuropathy is diabetes.
Diabetic peripheral neuropathy is a common form of neuropathy. Over time, uncontrolled sugar levels can damage your nerves. This nerve damage causes different symptoms and the problems first appear in the toes, feet, and hands. The custom treatment program available from The Nerve & Disc Institute has delivered success in a large number of our patients where other treatments or facilities have failed.
Neuropathy can affect nerves that control muscle movement (motor nerves) and those that detect sensations such as coldness or pain (sensory nerves). In some cases – autonomic neuropathy – it can affect internal organs, such as the heart, blood vessels, bladder, or intestines.
Pain from peripheral neuropathy is often described as a tingling or burning sensation. There is no specific length of time that the pain exists, but symptoms often improve with time – especially if the neuropathy has an underlying condition that can be cured. The condition is often associated with poor nutrition, a number of diseases, and pressure or trauma, but many cases have no known reason (called idiopathic neuropathy).
What Causes Peripheral Neuropathy
About 30% of neuropathy cases are considered idiopathic, which means they are of unknown cause. Another 30% of neuropathies are due to diabetes. In fact, about 50% of people with diabetes develop some type of neuropathy. The remaining cases of neuropathy, called acquired neuropathies, have several possible causes, including:
• Trauma or pressure on nerves, often from a cast or crutch or repetitive motion such as typing on a keyboard
• Nutritional problems and vitamin deficiencies, often from a lack of B vitamins
• Alcoholism, often through poor dietary habits and vitamin deficiencies
• Autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and Guillain-Barre syndrome
• Tumors, which often press up against nerves
• Other diseases and infections, such as kidney disease, liver disease, Lyme disease, HIV/AIDS, or an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)
• Inherited disorders (hereditary neuropathies), such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease and amyloid polyneuropathy
• Poison exposure, from toxins such as heavy metals, and certain medications and cancer treatments