Causes and symptoms of peripheral neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy is a condition where the peripheral nerves are damaged. This can cause numbness, weakness, and pain in the body, particularly in the feet and hands. The condition may be acute or chronic and treatment depends on the cause.
Causes of peripheral neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy can be caused by several factors. In fact, it is usually a result of a combination of causes such as
Diabetes: Peripheral neuropathy is the most common complication of diabetes. More than 50 percent of diabetics eventually develop the condition. Foot neuropathy is especially common, which is why diabetics are advised to regularly inspect their feet for injuries. For instance, a cut or a foot ulcer may go unnoticed if a diabetic patient is unable to feel pain on his or her feet. The injury may worsen and lead to more complications.
Medication: Certain medications can cause peripheral neuropathy in general. Chemotherapy is an example and cancer patients undergoing the treatment are at risk of developing the condition. Other types of medication include those used to treat HIV, blood pressure problems, and epileptic seizures.
Excessive alcohol consumption: Heavy drinking can cause peripheral neuropathy. Alcohol is toxic to nerve tissue and drinking too much can damage the nerves. It can alter levels of vitamins that are vital to their proper functioning. While quitting alcohol can reverse neuropathy, some nerve damage can be permanent, which is why it’s so important to indulge in moderate drinking.
Tumors: Benign and malignant tumors that grow on the nerves or press on them can cause peripheral neuropathy. Cancers that have a higher risk of causing neuropathy include breast, lung, ovarian, lymphoma, testicular, myeloma, and Hodgkin’s disease.
Infection: Certain infections can cause peripheral neuropathy. They include HIV, leprosy, Lyme disease, diphtheria, and hepatitis C.
Injury: Trauma to the nerves can cause peripheral neuropathy. Road accidents, falls, and sports injuries, for instance, can put pressure on the nerves or sever them completely.
Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy has noticeable signs, although seeking a diagnosis by a doctor is important to treat it. The symptoms may echo those of other health conditions therefore it is necessary to rule out other ailments.
- Burning, freezing or jabbing pain
- Tingling or numbness in the hands and feet, which may spread to the arms and legs
- Sensitivity to touch
- Muscle weakness
- Lack of coordinationDiagnosis: Diagnosing peripheral neuropathy involves a physical exam, a review of the patient’s medical history and nerve function tests. Doctors may do a nerve conduction study where electrodes are placed on the skin to see if the nerves are transmitting electricity properly. They may also do an electromyography to see how the nerve signals move to the muscles.
Peripheral neuropathy, especially foot neuropathy, may be reversible depending on the cause and the treatment. A proper check-up is essential to manage and even cure some types of neuropathy. Early intervention can improve this chance and may prevent future nerve damage as well.