What is Peripheral Neuropathy?
Peripheral Neuropathy is a disease that impacts the Peripheral Nerves. Peripheral nerves are responsible for transmitting information between your brain and body. Peripheral Nerve damage may result in loss of sensation, pain, or weakness, and can be caused by many factors including autoimmune diseases (like lupus or diabetes), injury to the peripheral nerves, toxins or medications, malnutrition, and some infections.
The disease can affect any of your peripheral nerves but most commonly it affects one’s ability to feel vibrations/temperature changes on their hands and feet as well as cause pain or numbness in these extremities. It can be debilitating and can leave patients unable to work or care for themselves. Treatment often requires the use of medications, physical therapy, pain medicine, lifestyle changes, nerve injections, and surgery.
Peripheral Neuropathy symptoms are different for everyone and may include:
- Loss of sensation, pain, or weakness in the hands and feet
- Numbness around the mouth, head, neck, legs, arms, and hands
- Intermittent bladder control (or no bladder control at all)
- Sexual dysfunction
The symptoms and areas affected by peripheral neuropathy are different for every patient, making it hard to diagnose. A complete medical history and combination of neurological tests are used to determine the location and extent of your nerve damage.
These may include:
- Electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction studies
- Nerve and skin biopsy
- Muscle strength tests
- Tests of the ability to detect vibrations
- Blood tests
- Spinal fluid tests
- MRI scan
- CT scan
Peripheral neuropathy can’t be cured, but it can be managed to prevent it from getting worse. If an underlying condition like diabetes is at fault, your doctor will likely treat that condition before treating the pain and other symptoms of neuropathy.
Treatment includes medications, physical therapy, lifestyle changes, nerve injections, and sometimes neurosurgery which can be used to destroy nerves or repair injuries that are causing neuropathic pain and symptoms.