Peripheral neuropathy is the most common disorder of the peripheral nervous system. Damage to peripheral nerves can result in numbness, pain, and weakness. Neuropathy typically affects the hands and feet but can involve other parts of the body.
Peripheral nerves can be divided into specific types based on their structure and function. Problems in specific nerve types can produce different symptoms.
If you have neuropathy, you may experience a gradual onset of numbness and tingling in the hands and feet. Other symptoms of neuropathy include:
- Burning Pain
- Stabbing pain
- Heightened sensitivity to touch
- Walking imbalance
- Weakness, if the motor nerves are involved
Neuropathy affecting the autonomic nerves can produce these symptoms:
- Dry mouth
- Dry eyes
- Altered sweating
- Bowel constipation
There are many causes of neuropathy that may include:
- Medical treatments such as chemotherapy
- Exposure to environmental toxins and heavy metals such as lead
- Infections including HIV, Hepatitis C, Lyme disease, syphilis
- Vitamin deficiencies
- Connective tissue disorders such as lupus, Sjogren’s syndrome, and vasculitis
- Trauma or pressure to a nerve
- Bone marrow disorders including lymphoma and multiple myeloma
- Tumors of a peripheral nerve
- Systematic illness that result in chronic liver or kidney failure
Inherited forms of neuropathy, such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, are caused by specific genetic mutations.
Autoimmune neuropathies including Guillain-Barre syndrome and chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP) are acquired immune-mediated disorders in which the body’s immune system attacks parts of the peripheral nerves.
Treatment of neuropathy depends on finding the specific cause and controlling it. For instance, if the neuropathy is caused by an infection, we must treat the infection; if it is caused by pressure on a nerve, we need to alleviate the pressure.
We can treat autoimmune neuropathies with intravenous immunoglobulin, plasma exchange, and immunosuppressive medications. Our treatment of neuropathic pain incorporates an integral approach with a combination of oral pain relievers, topical pain relievers including capsaicin patch, physical therapy, and holistic approaches such as acupuncture and meditation.
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