Neuropathy or Peripheral Neuropathy does not denote a single health condition. The term describes the health complications which damage the peripheral nerves. Although its symptoms and effects may be irreversible, we can take precautions to manage and prevent neuropathy.
In this guide, we will offer a detailed overview of peripheral neuropathy, including its symptoms, causes, and treatments.
First, let’s delve deeper into peripheral neuropathy and its types.
What is Peripheral Neuropathy?
Any damage to the nerves outside of the spinal cord and the brain (peripheral nerves) refers to as peripheral neuropathy. These issues may arise from metabolic problems, infections, or traumatic injuries. Some common signs of peripheral neuropathy include numbness, weakness, and pain in the hands and feet. However, this condition can also affect other areas of the body.
The peripheral nervous system comprises three types of nerves. Each of these nerves connects our spinal cord to muscles, skin, and internal organs.
- Motor Nerves: control our muscles’ movement.
- Sensory Nerves: receive sensations such as vibration, temperature, and pain from the skin.
- Autonomic Nerves: control passive functions like blood pressure, heart rate, and digestion
Why Does it Happen?
The peripheral nervous system transports signals from the brain and the spinal cord to the rest of your body. This system also sends sensory information to our central nervous system.
When any part of the peripheral nerves or the nerve axon gets damaged, the nerves don’t function like before. Instead, they begin sending the wrong signals or at incorrect times.
Many times, nerve damage also results due to diabetes or chemotherapy. However, it can also result from inherited problems, infections, or exposure to toxins.
Generally, people with peripheral neuropathy describe the pain as tingling, burning, or stabbing. In some cases, the symptoms and pain may improve due to medication.
Every nerve in the peripheral system performs a specific function. Hence, the symptoms will always be according to the damaged nerve. Signs and symptoms of peripheral neuropathy might include
- prickling, numbness, or tingling in hands or feet. Sometimes, these feelings can spread upward into the arms and legs.
- Throbbing, burning or jabbing pain
- Sensitivity to touch
- Pain during daily physical activities and even when you at rest
- Muscle fatigue or weakness
- Paralysis when motor nerves are affected
- In case your autonomic nerves receive any damage, the symptoms may include:
- Inability to sweat or excessive sweating
- Heat intolerance
- Digestive, bladder, or bowel problems
- Lightheadedness, dizziness, and changes in blood pressure
Typically, peripheral neuropathy affects:
a single nerve (mononeuropathy), or
multiple nerves in different areas (multiple mononeuropathy), or
several nerves (polyneuropathy).
If you experience the symptoms of Carpal tunnel syndrome, it is also a case of mononeuropathy. Many people with peripheral neuropathy also suffer from polyneuropathy.
Peripheral neuropathy is not a single disease, and the nerve damage is due to various conditions. Here are some health conditions that can lead to peripheral neuropathy.
Infections: Certain bacterial and viral infections, such as shingles, leprosy, Lyme disease, Hepatitis B and C
Autoimmune diseases: These autoimmune disorders include Lupus, Guillain-Barre syndrome, and Sjogren’s syndrome. They also include rheumatoid arthritis, and vasculitis, etc.
Diabetes: Some form of neuropathy may affect a large percentage of people with diabetes.
Inherited disorders: Charcot-Marie-Tooth is a disease, which is a hereditary form of neuropathy.
Tumors: Any growth in the body, both cancerous and noncancerous, can pressure the nerves. Polyneuropathy can also occur due to a few types of cancers associated with the body’s immunity. These are a form of a degenerative disorder called paraneoplastic syndrome.
Bone marrow disorders: Such disorders may include myeloma, monoclonal gammopathies, and lymphoma.
Diseases: an underactive thyroid, liver or kidney disease, connective tissue disorders, etc.
Other Common Causes of Peripheral Neuropathy
Exposure to Toxins: Exposure to poisonous substances such as heavy metals and industrial chemicals. For example, mercury and lead.
Alcoholism: People dealing with alcoholism have vitamin deficiencies, resulting in nerve damage.
Medications: If you are on any medications, you may be at risk of developing peripheral neuropathy.
Pressure or trauma: People who sustain nerve damage due to an accident or a sports injury may acquire this condition.
Vitamin deficiencies: Niacin, Vitamin E, and B vitamins are crucial for nerve health. That’s why peripheral neuropathy can affect people with vitamin deficiencies.
How Quickly does Peripheral Neuropathy Develop?
Some peripheral neuropathies develop rapidly, whereas others can take from months to years. More than a hundred types of neuropathies exist, and each one develops differently. The progression of the condition depends on the type of nerve damage, and the symptoms may vary in every case.
Main Types of Neuropathy
There are five kinds of peripheral neuropathy, which prevail in the U.S.
- DPN: Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy
- CIPN: Chemotherapy-induced Peripheral Neuropathy
- Alcoholic Neuropathy
- HIV/AIDS Neuropathy
- Idiopathic Neuropathy
Let’s explore each of these to know how they affect our bodies.
- Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy
DPN is the most common type of peripheral neuropathy. It affects 60% of diabetics in the U.S. Moreover, this condition can affect the motor, sensory, and autonomic nerves. The longer you take to treat DPN, the more severe it will become over time. Hence, it’s crucial for diabetics to seek medical attention as soon as they notice any nerve discomfort or neuropathy symptoms.
- Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy
CIPN is one of the various unfortunate side effects of chemotherapy. Over 30% of chemo patients in the U.S. experience some type of nerve damage. In many cases, this damage can persist long after chemo is complete.
- HIV/AIDS Peripheral Neuropathy
The symptoms of this type of peripheral neuropathy affect a third of all Americans with HIV/AIDS. A leading cause is the disease itself because it creates inflammation in the immune system. But the medications used for treating HIV can also play a crucial role because they damage cells within our nerves. HIV neuropathy usually manifests itself in numerous ways. The condition affects several motor and sensory nerves.
A medical professional can diagnose peripheral neuropathy by examining the history and condition of the patient. He may also ask for a few laboratory tests such as skin, nerve, or muscle biopsies.
- Alcoholic Neuropathy
Nearly 50% of long-term heavy drinkers suffer from alcoholic neuropathy. Generally, it takes years for alcoholic neuropathy to develop. However, heavy alcohol users may observe a faster onset and progression.
The diagnosis involves a mix of physical examination, medical history, and possibly nerve tests or blood tests.
- Idiopathic Peripheral Neuropathy
In some cases, peripheral neuropathy occurs for no apparent reason. We refer to this disorder as ‘idiopathic’ because there is no known reason. It affects people who are 60 years and above. The condition progresses slowly. However, it disrupts an individual’s lifestyle and normal life.
The condition worsens over time. Hence, seniors should watch out for any symptoms to seek treatment as early as possible.
How Does a Doctor Diagnose Peripheral Neuropathy?
Here are some common methods to diagnose peripheral neuropathy.
Physical Exam and Medical History
The first step any doctor will take to make a diagnosis is to conduct a detailed physical exam. He will also consider your symptoms and ask questions about your past and current medications. If you notice any unexplained tingling or numbness in your hands or feet, the doctor will inquire about social habits and work/lifestyle. People whose job involves performing repetitive motions are at risk of nerve damage.
Alcohol, poor diet, and a family history of nerve damage can lead to the onset of peripheral neuropathy.
Your doctor will assess your reflexes during a neurologic exam to check balance and coordination. That way, he can also test your muscle tone/strength and your ability to feel pain or sensations.
Imaging and Blood Work Tests
Your doctor may also order imaging tests and blood work. Such tests can reveal any electrolyte or mineral imbalances to indicate other underlying issues such as diabetes and kidney problems.
Tissue biopsies: A skin or nerve biopsy can confirm the diagnosis. The doctor will remove a small sample of the tissue, muscle, or nerve and examine it under a microscope.
MRI: Magnetic resonance imaging can detect nerve compression or tumors.
Genetic Testing: Your doctor may order genetic testing to determine the actual cause of neuropathy.
EDX: Electrodiagnostic assessment can help the doctor find the location and degree of nerve damage.
Other tests: Other tests that can measure a body’s ability to sweat (QSART test) can check the sensitivity of your senses. Your doctor may recommend these tests for testing your sensitivity to pain, touch, cold, heat, or vibration.
Peripheral Neuropathy: Prognosis
Currently, there is no cure or treatment to cure peripheral neuropathy completely. However, there are numerous ways to reduce the intensity of its symptoms and manage the condition. Remember, if you leave peripheral neuropathy untreated, it can lead to all kinds of health issues.
For instance, diabetic peripheral neuropathy can lead to limb amputations. You can prevent unfortunate outcomes by seeking medical attention as soon as you notice any symptoms. If you are a diabetic and don’t seek any treatment for this condition, the neuropathy symptoms will worsen over time.
In some cases, serious complications such as foot ulcers and gangrene also develop, which increase the risks of amputation. Other serious complications may include problems with the circulatory system and heart disorders. But these complications are worst-case scenarios. You can prevent them by seeking medical attention as soon as possible and following the treatment plan prescribed by your doctor.
How to Prevent the Disorder
You can prevent the onset of peripheral neuropathy by making healthy lifestyle choices. That includes eating a healthy diet, avoiding excessive alcohol or smoking, and exercising regularly. Taking good care of your hands and feet to avoid any injuries can also protect you from peripheral neuropathy.
Stay away from any drugs that can trigger this condition. If you are on cancer medications or anti-alcohol drugs, post-treatment, you can inquire your doctor about reducing the dosage or permanent discontinuation.
How Can you Manage Peripheral Neuropathy?
One of the best ways is to treat the underlying conditions that are causing peripheral neuropathy. For instance, diabetic patients can regulate their blood sugar levels to treat the underlying cause of their diabetic neuropathy. If the condition is in response to a vitamin deficiency, you should consume the appropriate supplements. Depending on the type of peripheral neuropathy, you can take different precautions that can ease the irritation and pain.
You can manage the symptoms and progression of peripheral neuropathy through these practices.
All over-the-counter medication that eases mild pain can help—for example, aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen. If you are suffering from severe pain, your doctor will recommend prescription pain medication such as antidepressants, anticonvulsant drugs, and small doses of opioids.
- Self-Care and Relaxation Techniques
Many times, making small changes to your daily lifestyle can go a long way to ease the pain. Meditate and perform yoga exercises under professional supervision. Use stockings at home and set up your living space to reduce the risks of falls and injuries. Mobility aids, such as a wheelchair or a cane, can also help.
- Physical Therapy
Early treatment of peripheral neuropathy is crucial. Unfortunately, the peripheral nerves don’t have enough capacity to regenerate. Hence, the treatment may only stop the progression but not reverse the damage. If someone becomes severely impaired, they may benefit from physical therapy for avoiding muscle cramping and spasms.
- Surgical Treatments
Your doctor will provide the treatment plan based on your sensory symptoms. However, doctors recommend surgical treatments for people with severe nerve compression or nerve damage only.
- Topical Creams
Most people don’t want to try out steroid injections, oral medications, or surgical treatments. Topical creams for relieving pain due to peripheral neuropathy can offer significant relief. These products contain capsaicin and lidocaine for alleviating numbness, pain, and a burning sensation. You can apply these creams directly to the affected area.
Let’s review some of the best creams to relieve peripheral neuropathy symptoms.
Best Creams for Peripheral Neuropathy
- Neuropathy Pain Relief Cream from MyoMed P.R.O.
The clinically proven essential oil formula of this fast-action cream relieves all types of pain, including neuropathy pain. This popular cream delivers results within minutes of application. The all-natural ingredients of this formula make it a safe topical cream that easily absorbs into the skin. Don’t let your pain control your life anymore. Get your hands on this fabulous cream to take control of your life.
- Neuropathy Nerve Pain Relief Cream from Vita Sciences Store
Use this natural pain relief formula for tackling many issues related to peripheral neuropathy. If you want to reduce the burning, tingling, and numbness of your skin, use this powerful cream from Vita Sciences Store. People with diabetes can also use this topical cream. Since it contains essential nutrients and vitamins, it does an amazing job of offering immediate pain relief. The cream moisturizes the skin, and its powerful antioxidants offer immediate relief.
- Neuropathy Nerve Relief Cream from Nuturna
The multi-action neuropathy cream guarantees an increase in blood flow to relieve pain and tingling. The ingredients of this amazing cream boost blood flow and improve the sensitivity of the skin. Aloe vera, menthol, and tea tree leaf oil are just a few of the many ingredients that go into the composition of this cream. Don’t forget to perform a patch test before applying the cream to the entire affected area.
- Neuropathy Nerve Pain Relief Cream from Conquer Products
‘Pain Relief Experts’ claim to manufacture this amazing formula. This effective cream boasts natural ingredients for reducing inflammation, joint pain, nerve pain, and Neuropathy pain. This fast-absorbing cream works wonders to relieve your muscles and joints along with other areas.
- Joint Mud
If you are looking for a natural ingredient-based topical solution, try out Joint Mud. It works on hips, shoulder, knee, elbow, neck, and hands. It is made with 27 natural ingredients and does not have a smell. According to a clinical study, it can increase joint flexibility and range of motion by 239% in 28 days!
Now you know how to prevent and manage peripheral neuropathy. Through a blend of medication, topical creams, and lifestyle changes, you can live a normal life. Follow our guide to reduce pain and improve your mobility if you are dealing with peripheral neuropathy.