Neuropathy literally means “nerve disease” and describes damage affecting the peripheral nervous system. While it is common and can affect anybody, it is most often seen in older adults. About 20 million people in the United States have some form of neuropathy. As such, many people seek neuropathy treatment each year.
What are the Symptoms?
The symptoms vary somewhat depending on the types of nerves involved. Neuropathy can affect sensory, motor or autonomic nerves with the last group being nerves that control such automatic functions as digestion, blood pressure and the heart rate.
While neuropathy can affect any part of the body, most people develop symptoms in their hands and feet. Common symptoms of neuropathy can include the following:
• Extreme sensitivity to touch
• Tingling, pricking or numbness that gradually develops in the hands and feet and can spread into the limbs
• Freezing, burning and sharp or throbbing pain
Neuropathy that involves the motor nerves can cause muscle weakness and even paralysis. The patient’s coordination will deteriorate and they may start falling more often.
Neuropathy that affects autonomic nerves can cause problems with the digestive system, bladder or bowel. It can cause changes in blood pressure that result in the patient feeling lightheaded or dizzy. The patient may also become less tolerant of heat.
What Causes Neuropathy?
Neuropathy is not truly a single disease; it is nerve damage caused by a wide array of conditions. Diabetes is one of the more common causes; over half of the patients with diabetes develop some type of neuropathy.
Many autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus can cause neuropathy. In autoimmune disorders, the body’s immune system starts attacking the body’s own tissues, including the nerves. Infections like Lyme disease or shingles that attack the nerves can also cause neuropathy. Tumors that press on the nerves are another cause of the disease.
Various toxic substances like heavy metals can also cause nerve damage. Certain medications, like those used in chemotherapy, can cause neuropathy as well. Vitamin deficiency is yet another cause.
People with conditions like diabetes or an autoimmune disorder have a much greater chance of developing neuropathy. A susceptibility to neuropathy runs in some families. Alcoholics often have poor eating habits and are prone to neuropathy caused by poor nutrition. People with poor diets in general are at risk for developing the disease.
Some types of neuropathy, like carpal tunnel syndrome, are caused by repetitive motions that eventually irritate or damage the nerves. Any occupation that requires people to make such motions increases the risk of developing neuropathy.
When Should Someone Seek Neuropathy Treatment?
Anybody that has experienced symptoms like tingling, pain or weakness in their hands and feet should see our team at The NeuroMedical Institute in Panama City. People with a disease like diabetes that has been linked to neuropathy should talk to our team about being tested for it. Similarly, anybody who has a condition that increases their chances of developing neuropathy should undergo periodic tests to determine if they have it. People in high-risk occupations also need to be periodically evaluated.
It is important to remember that early diagnosis and treatment can prevent the condition from getting worse. Contact us today to schedule a consultation to learn more about neuropathy treatment.