If you are experiencing numbness, sharp or dull pain, or tingling in your hands and feet, you could be experiencing peripheral neuropathy. There are various types of these neuropathies and their causes and symptoms do vary depending on the type you have. It is important to discover your specific type so that you know how to treat it. Trained professionals at Advance Health and Wellness may be able to not only ascertain the type of peripheral neuropathy you are experiencing, but also come up with the best plan of action to treat it.
Peripheral neuropathy is a condition that results from damage to your peripheral nerves, or the nerves that transport messages from the brain and spinal cord to other parts of the body, and back again. Your peripheral nervous system is basically your body’s internet, or telephone lines before the world went wireless. This vast and intricate network of nerves connects your brain and spinal column to your muscles, skin, and internal organs. Any damage to this network can send mixed signals or no signals at all, to the right receptor or to an entirely wrong one. It can interfere with muscle movement, or prevent appropriate sensation in the arms and legs. You may experience difficulty maintaining balance, be sensitive to touch, have some paralysis, or even feel heat or cold insensitivities depending on the affected nerve. Pain is also a side effect.
There are two larger, umbrella types of neuropathies: mononeuropathy and polyneuropathy. They are differentiated by their causes and in what types of problems they result.
Mononeropathy is damage to one single peripheral nerve. Some type of trauma or physical injury is the cause of this type of neuropathy, such as prolonged or recurring pressure on a nerve, like that caused by being immobile for extended periods. For example, when sitting in a wheelchair, constantly being at a desk, or lying in bed with an illness or disability. Because of this, the chronically disabled, paralyzed, or those on bed-rest are at risk. Repetitive or continuous motions can also trigger a mononeuropathy, so those playing certain types of sports or working certain jobs could be affected as well. Carpal tunnel is one example of this type of neuropathy, and is often seen in those using a keyboard day in and day out, for multiple hours per day.
Polyneuropathy, then, is damage to multiple nerves in the peripheral system all at the same time, and is the most prevalent type among peripheral neuropathy cases. There are many causes of this type of neuropathy, such as an exposure to toxins from excessive alcohol consumption, lack of proper nutrition, and complications from diseases like kidney failure or cancer. One of the most common forms of chronic polyneuropathy occurs in people with diabetes. Diabetic neuropathy is worse in people who have difficulty controlling blood sugar levels. Though it is not as common, diabetes can result in a mononeuropathy as well.
While the condition may sound scary, peripheral neuropathy can be treated in a variety of ways. There are over the counter medicines and pain relievers, creams that contain capsaicin, a substance found naturally in hot peppers, certain anti-depressants thought to disrupt the chemical processes in the brain responsible for pain, and some anti-seizure medications may all be somewhat effective. Most of these drugs have mild to severe side effects of their own, and can be difficult to regulate. Therapies and treatments available through our practice may be able to keep you from relying on costly medications.