Peripheral neuropathy is a condition that can occur when there is damage to the peripheral nerves that causes numbness, weakness and pain in certain areas of the body, most often the hands and feet. Damage to the peripheral nerves can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
- Traumatic injuries
- Metabolic problems
- Inherited causes
- Exposure to toxins
- Diabetes mellitus
- Certain medications
- Tumors & other diseases
The peripheral nervous system sends information from the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) to the rest of the body (muscles, skin and internal organs). The peripheral nerves make up an intricate network that come out of the spinal cord and are arranged along lines in the body known as “dermatomes”.
Damage to a peripheral nerve will typically affect one or more dermatomes, which can be tracked to specific regions of the body. This damage can interrupt normal communications between the brain and other body parts. The result can be muscle impairment, prevention of normal sensation in the legs and arms as well as painful sensations.
Types of Peripheral Neuropathies
There are different types of peripheral neuropathies that stem from various causes, some of which are listed above. Neuropathies are usually classified according to the symptoms that they cause or by what is at the root of the damage. Other terminologies refer to how extensively the nerves have been damaged.
Damage to a single peripheral nerve, typically as a result of physical injury such as from an accident. Prolonged pressure on a nerve that can occur as a result of extended periods of being sedentary (sitting in a wheelchair or being bedridden) can also cause damage to a single nerve. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a very common type of mononeuropathy, wherein an overuse strain injury compresses the nerves that travel through the wrist. This is prevalent among workers that perform repetitive motions with the wrist, such as typing on a keyboard.
When there is damage to multiple peripheral nerves throughout the body at the same time. Polyneuropathy accounts for the greatest number of peripheral neuropathy cases and can occur due to a variety of factors. One of the most common forms of chronic polyneuropathy is diabetic neuropathy (a condition that occurs in people with diabetes). Other causes can include alcohol abuse, poor nutrition and complications from diseases like kidney failure and cancer.
Treating Peripheral Neuropathy
Managing the condition that is causing your specific neuropathy is typically the first step in treating peripheral neuropathy and attaining relief from symptoms. Prior to developing a treatment plan, your physician will perform a physical exam and other diagnostic tests such as:
- Imaging tests
- Nerve Functions tests
- Nerve biopsy
- Skin biopsy
Based on the results of your evaluation, your doctor may recommend several complementary treatment approaches to address any underlying conditions and necessary lifestyle changes. Medications are often prescribed to help relieve peripheral neuropathy pain. These can include:
- Pain relievers
- Anti-seizure medications
Complementary treatments and therapies to help ease the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy may include:
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
- Plasma exchange and intravenous immune globulin
- Physical therapy and exercise programs
- Diet changes to include more important vitamins & minerals
- Avoidance of alcohol and cigarette smoking
In cases where neuropathies are caused by pressure on the nerves, such as from tumors, surgical intervention may be necessary in order to reduce the pressure.
Schedule an Appointment with Our Providers
If you would like to learn more about treatment for peripheral neuropathy and other nerve conditions, please contact the Diagnostic Pain Center in Austin today. To schedule an appointment with our providers, please call (512) 981-7246 or click on the appointment request button below.