Neuropathy occurs when the nervous system is unable to function properly due to nerve damage. This nerve damage interrupts the messages carried by the nerves to and from the brain. This interruption can make it difficult for the brain to communicate with parts of the body. Neuropathy may cause pain or affect sensation and muscle movement in the extremities and other areas of the body.

The type of neuropathy can often be determined through testing, the type of symptoms and the symptoms location within the body. Some symptoms manifest in the extremities; however, sometimes neuropathy can result in loss of bowel or bladder control, low blood pressure, diarrhea and constipation depending upon the type and location of the affected nerves. Some types of neuropathy can also cause a burning sensation in the hands and feet or can make it difficult for a person to sense temperature or pain which can lead to the injury of affected limbs.

Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

Types of Neuropathy.

Peripheral Neuropathy – Peripheral nerves carry messages throughout the body when these nerves are damaged the condition is known as peripheral neuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy develops for a variety of reasons and is more common in those over the age of 55.

Diabetic Neuropathy – Occurs when nerves are damaged by high blood sugar levels, otherwise known as glucose.

Ischemic Neuropathy – When damage to the nerves is the result of impaired blood circulation due to vascular disorders it is known as ischemic neuropathy. This occurs because the impaired blood flow starves the nerves of the oxygen, vitamins and other vital substances needed to sustain proper functioning.

Idiopathic Neuropathy – Sometimes the cause of nerve damage cannot be determined, this is referred to as idiopathic neuropathy, which means the neuropathy has an unknown cause. Idiopathic nerve damage generally occurs in those over age 60 and usually progresses slowly.

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What Causes Neuropathy?

Acquired neuropathies can develop from exposure to toxins and from trauma, illness or infection. Some causes of acquired neuropathy include diabetes, certain medications, thyroid disease or shingles while hereditary neuropathies are passed from parents to children genetically.

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Symptoms of Neuropathy.

Symptoms of neuropathy can vary based on the cause of the condition. Pain from diabetic neuropathy is most commonly felt in the legs and feet; although, other areas such as the heart, digestive system and urinary tract can also be affected. Ischemic neuropathy symptoms can vary depending upon which area of the body is affected. Numbness, tingling, pain and decreased mobility are possible symptoms within the affected area. Idiopathic neuropathy symptoms include numbness, tingling and pain that may start with the feet and then later include the shins. Additional symptoms of idiopathic neuropathy can include unsteadiness, muscle weakness, faintness and cramps.

How Neuropathy is Treated.

Treatments for neuropathy depend on the cause of the nerve damage. For example, pursuing a healthy lifestyle and controlling blood sugar levels can often prevent diabetic neuropathy or slow its progression. For those with ischemic neuropathy it is recommended to eat a balanced diet and limit foods with high cholesterol to reduce the symptoms. Staying active, giving up smoking and alcohol are also recommended to reduce the symptoms of ischemic neuropathy, as is, avoiding expended periods of time in uncomfortable positions.

Treatment options for mild idiopathic neuropathy pain include over-the-counter pain medications, while more severe pain may be managed with prescription medications. Therapeutic shoes are also a treatment option for some types of neuropathy. Safety measures should be taken to reduce the risks of injuries associated with possible loss of sensation in the extremities.

Because treatments for peripheral neuropathy may not be able to reverse the damage that has been done, early diagnosis is important to prevent further nerve damage. Finding the cause of the neuropathy may aid in the treatment of the condition. For instance, vitamin therapy and improved diet can reduce symptoms if the neuropathy is caused by a vitamin deficiency. However, in some cases, physical therapy may be recommended to maintain strength, and in other cases surgery may be suggested.

Home treatment

  • It may help to use topical pain relievers or take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation.
  • Stay physically active and follow a fitness program focusing on moderate exercise.
  • Stretch before exercising to maintain a good range of motion in your joints.
  • Keep your body weight within a healthy range. This will lessen stress on the joints.
  • If your pain isn’t due to arthritis, you can try taking a nonprescription, anti-inflammatory drug, getting a massage, taking a warm bath, stretching frequently, and getting adequate rest.

Procedures for Neuropathy.

Procedures that modify how nerves function include epidural steroid injections, peripheral nerve blocks and sympathetic nerve blocks. Neuroablative procedures include radiofrequency ablation, cryoanalgesia and neurectomies. Currently, neuromodulation with peripheral nerve stimulators and spinal cord stimulators are the most evidence-based treatments of neuropathic pain.

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