It's important to note that there are many other reasons for neuropathy, but diabetes is a significant contributor. For some patients, neuropathy can be effectively managed and even reversed. If neuropathy cannot be reversed, treatment should focus on alleviating symptoms and limiting their impact on one's life.
Injury to the peripheral nerves is called peripheral neuropathy. The nerves that travel to your limbs (legs and arms) are called peripheral nerves. Damage to the nervous system disrupts the normal functioning of the nerves. In the case of those suffering from peripheral neuropathy, sensation in the toes and fingers sometimes diminishes or becomes aberrant. The inability to move these limbs is a common complication.
Peripheral neuropathy refers to nerve injury that can arise from various sources. Some health conditions that might lead to peripheral neuropathy are:
Autoimmune diseases: Illnesses caused by the immune system attacking healthy tissue. Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, vasculitis, Guillain-Barré syndrome, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and Sjogren's syndrome are all autoimmune diseases.
Diabetes: That is the most common reason. More than 50% of diabetics will get neuropathy.
Infections: Lyme disease, zoster, Epstein-Barr virus, hepatitis B and C, leprosy, diphtheria, and HIV are a few examples of viruses and bacteria that fall under this category.
Genetic diseases: Several forms of neuropathy run in families, including Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.
Tumors: Both malignant and benign tumors have the potential to form on nerves or exert pressure on them. Polyneuropathy can also develop when the body's immune system attacks a particular type of malignancy. These symptoms can be associated with a degenerative condition known as a paraneoplastic syndrome.
Bone marrow diseases: Myeloma, lymphoma, and amyloidosis are all diseases caused by aberrant bodily proteins.
Other illnesses: Diseases associated with kidneys, liver, connective tissue, and thyroid, among others, fall into this category (hypothyroidism).
Neuropathies can also be brought on by other reasons such as:
Alcoholism: Vitamin deficiencies are a typical result of the poor eating habits of alcoholics.
Exposure to poisons: Heavy metals like lead, mercury, and other industrial chemicals are examples of toxic substances.
Medications: Peripheral neuropathy can be caused by several different drugs but is most commonly associated with cancer treatments like chemotherapy.
Nerve injury or pressure: Peripheral nerves can be severed or damaged by trauma such as that sustained in car accidents, falls, or sports-related injuries. Casts, crutches, and repeated motions like typing can stress the nervous system.
Vitamin deficiencies: Nutrients like vitamin E, niacin, and B vitamins (especially B-1, B-6, and B-12) are essential for healthy neuron function.
Because each peripheral nerve serves a unique purpose, the manifestation of symptoms is also unique to each nerve. Each type of nerve can be further broken down into the following:
- Sensory nerves: the sensory nerves get information from the skin, such as temperature, pain, vibration, or touch.
- Motor nerves: Muscle-movement regulating neurons called motor nerves
- Autonomic nerves: nerves that regulate bodily activities automatically include those responsible for blood pressure, sweating, heart rate, digestion, and urination.
Potential peripheral neuropathy symptoms include:
- Numbness, prickling, or tingling begins in the feet or hands and gradually spreads up the legs and arms.
- Pain that is acute, stabbing, throbbing, or scorching
- Sensitivity to physical contact on the end
- Pain in places it shouldn't be, like in your feet when you put weight on them or when you wrap a blanket around them.
- Coordination issues; tripping over words
- Muscle weakness
- Experiencing the sensation of wearing socks or gloves when you aren't
- Involvement of the motor nerves can cause paralysis.
There may be a variety of symptoms if autonomic nerves are affected, such as:
- Intolerance of hot weather
- Sweating too much or not sweating enough
- Problems associated with elimination (bladder, bowel, or stomach)
- A fall in blood pressure that leads to fainting or dizziness
When Should You See a Doctor?
If your hands or feet are feeling numb, weak, or painful, you should see a doctor straight once. Controlling your symptoms and avoiding future damage to your peripheral nerves is most likely achieved by prompt diagnosis and treatment.
Diagnosis & Treatment
Diagnosis of peripheral neuropathy can be performed by a podiatrist, general practitioner, internist, or diabetic specialist. Diagnosis is based on your medical history, your current state of health, and self-reported symptoms. Since high blood sugar and diabetes are major causes of peripheral neuropathy, your doctor may decide to run a blood test to determine your current reading.
Peripheral neuropathy currently has no known cure. Treatments aim to halt the worsening of symptoms, preserve foot health, lessen pain (if any), and boost the quality of life.
The podiatrist may recommend over-the-counter or prescription medication to treat symptoms. You'll learn how to do a self-foot check for injuries and infections, and your doctor will undertake a complete examination of your feet. Additionally, your podiatrist will instruct you on how to maintain your feet at home. A podiatrist should check the feet of everyone with peripheral neuropathy at least once a year.