Studies estimate that over 20 million people in the US have a form of peripheral neuropathy. However, this number could be significantly higher than even this. Not every person who exhibits one or more of the symptoms of neuropathy undergoes a test to determine whether they have a form of neuropathy. Tests also don’t currently look for all types of neuropathy. Doctors also frequently misdiagnosed this condition due to the diverse array of symptoms. In this article, we’ll discuss neuropathy, what the peripheral nervous system is, and the details of peripheral neuropathy as one of the significant types so you can know if you may have this condition.
What Is Neuropathy?
Are you worried you may have neuropathy? You can get more clarity by learning about neuropathy, its types, and what is involved in the peripheral nervous system. Neuropathy is essentially nerve damage. This nerve damage can occur due to a specific variety of conditions, such as treatments like chemotherapy and diabetes. In reality, neuropathy is not just one health condition. Many refer to neuropathy to describe a range of health issues. This can involve different damage to the peripheral nerves, and can describe some of the common symptoms of those problems.
Neuropathy can occur when high levels of sugar or fat in the blood damage the nerves of your body. This medical condition can affect any nerve in your body. Your nerves are vital to how your body works, enabling you to move, control automatic functions like breathing, and send messages about how things make you feel. There are a few different types of neuropathy. Some involve the peripheral nerves and others involve the nerves that supply your internal organs, including your bladder, gut, and heart. The main kinds of neuropathy are focal neuropathy, proximal neuropathy, autonomic neuropathy, and peripheral neuropathy.
What Is Peripheral Neuropathy?
The type of neuropathy known as peripheral neuropathy occurs from damage to the nerves that are on the outside of your brain and your spinal cord. These unique nerves are referred to as the peripheral nerves. This type of neuropathy often causes some numbness, pain, and weakness, usually in the feet and hands. Peripheral neuropathy may also affect other parts of your body and some of your essential body functions, including urination, digestion, and circulation. It can result from metabolic issues, infections, traumatic injuries, exposure to toxins, or inherited causes. One of the common causes of peripheral neuropathy is diabetes, which affects millions each year.
People who suffer from peripheral neuropathy often detail their pain as burning, tingling, or stabbing. In many cases, symptoms start to improve, especially if the root cause is a treatable medical issue. Some medications can work to reduce the level of pain you experience due to peripheral neuropathy. The symptoms and signs of peripheral neuropathy can include gradual numbness, tingling, or prickling in your hands or feet, jabbing, burning, throbbing, or sharp pain, severe sensitivity to touch, falling down, lack of coordination, abnormal pain during regular activities, muscle weakness, and paralysis if your motor nerves become affected.
What Is the Peripheral Nervous System?
Each nerve of your peripheral nervous system has a unique and highly precise function. So, your symptoms can largely depend on the precise types of nerves affected. There are multiple types of nerves. Sensory nerves receive temperature sensations, pain, or vibrations. Motor nerves determine your muscle movement. Autonomic nerves work some of your vital functions, including your perspiration, blood pressure, digestion, heart rate, and bladder functions. Peripheral neuropathy can affect one nerve if it’s mononeuropathy. It can also affect two or more nerves in specific areas if it’s multiple mononeuropathies, or many specific nerves if it’s polyneuropathy. Many who have peripheral neuropathy also have polyneuropathy.
Your peripheral nerves are an essential part of your nervous system. This unique system includes both your unique central nervous system as well as your peripheral nervous system, which involves your spinal cord as well as your brain. Your peripheral nerves lie outside of the spinal cord and brain. These nerves relay specific information between the brain and the remainder of your body. Your peripheral nervous system includes both your somatic nervous system as well as your specific autonomic nervous system. Your specific somatic system translates information between your central nervous system and your skin, eyes, and ears, and determines muscle movement. The autonomic system regulates glands and controls involuntary functions.
When to See a Doctor for Peripheral Neuropathy
You should seek medical attention right away if you notice any pain or weakness in your feet or hands, or if you notice any unusual tingling in your body. If you receive a proper diagnosis from a specialist when you first begin observing symptoms of peripheral neuropathy, you will have a much better chance of effective treatment and more control over your symptoms. With an early diagnosis, you can also avoid enduring more severe damage to your peripheral nerves than you may currently be experiencing. There are some specific risk factors involved with peripheral neuropathy, so you’ll want to seek early medical attention when you begin noticing symptoms.
Some of the specific risk factors involved with peripheral neuropathy include:
- alcohol misuse
- diabetes, especially if sugar levels are improperly controlled
- vitamin deficiencies, such as a B-vitamin deficiency
- infections such as shingles, Lyme disease, hepatitis B and C
- Epstein-Barr virus
Other risk factors are liver, kidney, or thyroid disorders, exposure to toxins, a family history of neuropathy, repetitive motion, such as those done for specific types of jobs, and autoimmune diseases, including both lupus, in which the immune system attacks some of your tissues, and rheumatoid arthritis. Some of the complications include infection, burns, skin injuries, and falls.
Help Diagnosing and Treating Peripheral Neuropathy
If you are worried you may have peripheral neuropathy, contact the Foot & Ankle Specialists of Illinois. You can receive an early diagnosis and help with treating your neuropathy condition, while avoiding complications or a worse condition.