While peripheral neuropathy damages the body’s communication network and interferes with the vital connections of the nerves throughout the body, there can be a wide array of symptoms with each nerve that is damaged. Depending on the root cause of peripheral neuropathy, the messages that are sent through the nerves could be distorted, interrupted, or disconnected from the brain to the rest of the body. The nerves can be completely or partially severed, compressed, crushed, stretched, or detached from the spinal cord.
Peripheral Neuropathy Signs
Depending on the type of damage to the nerves, and how many are involved, there can be signs of peripheral neuropathy as it slowly progresses, or it can suddenly appear and progress rapidly. There are different forms of neuropathy with different signs such as:
- Mononeuropathies, which occurs when only one nerve is damaged, but is less likely to occur
- Polyneuropathy will occur more often, and there are multiple nerves that are damaged, which can affect all limbs.
- Mononeuritis multiplex occurs when two or more nerves are affected that are isolated in different areas of the body.
- With polyneuropathy, individual cells of the nerve that are furthest from the spinal cord and brain begin to malfunction first. Generally it begins in both feet and gradually progresses up the legs. Then it can be felt in the arms, hands, and fingers as it progresses to the center of the body.
Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy
With the many different areas and nerves of the body that can be affected, there are many different symptoms that can be experienced. With chronic forms of peripheral neuropathy, symptoms may begin subtly and slowly progress. Acute forms of neuropathy can cause symptoms to suddenly appear and rapidly progress and the nerves that are damaged will generally take awhile to slowly heal.
Symptoms that are related to the type of nerve that is affected can be noticed over several days, weeks, or even years. Many symptoms can include uncontrollable muscle twitching, muscle loss, painful cramps, sharp pains, bone degeneration, and changes with hair, nails, and skin. More specific symptoms can include:
- Damage to the sensory nerves – This can cause the loss of the ability to feel a vibration or touch, which can result in numbness, particularly in the feet, and hands. Many people explain the feeling of wearing gloves or socks when they experience the symptoms, even though they aren’t. Damage to the sensory fibers can also cause a loss in reflexes, as well as losing position sense, which affects the ability to walk, or maintain balance with the eyes closed.
- Autonomic nerve damage – This can be life threatening and may require emergency care when symptoms like impaired breathing or an irregular heart beat occur. Other symptoms can include heat intolerance, unable to sweat normally, cannot maintain a safe blood pressure, lightheadedness, dizziness, or fainting when sitting or standing.
Types of Treatment
One of the goals with treating peripheral neuropathy is to first manage the condition that is causing the neuropathy. If the cause can be corrected, then often times the neuropathy will improve on its own. It is also recommended to adopt a healthier lifestyle, such as eating healthy and being physically active. The other goal is to relieve the patient of the painful symptoms they are experiencing. This is generally done with medication that can relieve the pain, and may include:
- Over the counter pain relievers – These can relieve pain and reduce inflammation with milder symptoms, but with symptoms that are more severe, you may be prescribed painkillers.
- Anti-seizure medications – Doctors will also often prescribe anti-seizure medications to relieve nerve pain, but they can cause dizziness and drowsiness.
- Antidepressants – These are effective medications with relieving pain by interfering in the chemical processes between the brain and spinal cord.
- Laser Treatment
- Stem Cell Treatments
- Surgery – Dellon Decompression Surgery
There are also types of therapies that can help relieve symptoms, such as electrical nerve stimulation through electrodes that are placed on the skin. A plasma exchange has also been found to be beneficial for those with particular inflammatory conditions by suppressing activity in the immune system.
The top neuropathy specialists in the Southwest are Scottsdale Neuropathy Institute with Dr. Richard Jacoby. Dr. Jacoby has been working with neuropathy patients for over 20 years providing both nonoperative and operative management. No foot and ankle specialist offers such comprehensive, effective treatments!
Call (480) 994-5977 today.