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Peripheral Neuropathy: What is this Disease?

Peripheral neuropathy is caused when the nerves do not work properly, causing pain, difficulty in mobility, and weakness in the body. Learn more here.

Peripheral neuropathy is a pathology that appears when the nerves in the brain do not function properly, which prevents them from carrying the proper signals from the spinal cord to the rest of the body. This can affect some or all of the nerve areas of the body.

People with peripheral neuropathy usually have pain, numbness in the hands and feet, and weakness. This as a consequence prevents the person from maintaining their regular lifestyle and needing more time at rest.

What is peripheral neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathy is a disease caused by damage to the nerves that travel from the brain to the spinal cord and the signals they send do not work properly. This pathology can occur as a consequence of traumatic injuries, metabolic problems, infections, exposure to toxins and even family inheritance, however, the most common cause is diabetes.

Peripheral neuropathy: Symptoms

A patient suffering from peripheral neuropathy may have symptoms that vary depending on which nerves have been affected. With this disease, the nerves that can be affected are sensory, motor and autonomic.

A person with neuropathy may have one or more of the symptoms such as:

  • sharp pain
  • Extreme sensitivity to touch.
  • Numbness, tingling or tickling in the hands or feet.
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Difficulty coordinating movements.
  • recurring falls.
  • Pain when doing an activity that shouldn’t hurt.
  • Heat intolerance.
  • excessive sweating
  • Intestinal, digestive, or bladder problems.
  • Decreased blood pressure.

Neuropathy can even cause sexual problems in sufferers. In the case of men, they may have difficulty having erections and women often suffer from vaginal dryness or problems having orgasms. It should be noted that those people who present the disease may have an increase or accentuation of symptoms when stress appears.

Anxiety and stress are factors that trigger carelessness in people with peripheral neuropathy, they adopt bad postures, neglect their diet, have sleep problems and lack hydration, which generates more pain.

Causes of peripheral neuropathy

There are various causes for which nerves can be damaged:

  • Infections: viral or bacterial infections can cause neuropathy, some of the most common are: Herpes zoster, Epstein-Barr Virus, Hepatitis B and C, Leprosy, Diphtheria and HIV.
  • Diabetes: High blood sugar levels for long periods of time can cause nerve damage. Diabetes is usually the most common cause of neuropathy.
  • Autoimmune diseases: some pathologies such as rheumatoid arthritis, vasculitis, Sj√∂gren’s syndrome and lupus are the cause of the appearance of peripheral neuropathy.
  • Tumors: Tumors can grow on or press on nerves, causing neuropathy. It can also occur due to polyneuropathy as a result of some cancers.
  • Bone marrow problems: lymphomas, myelomas, or monoclonal gammopathies are some of the disorders that can cause neuropathy.
  • Other diseases: Hereditary disorders can cause neuropathy such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. There are also hypothyroidism, kidney and liver diseases, and connective tissue disorders.
  • Alcoholism: lack of vitamins, dehydration and high alcohol consumption can cause peripheral neuropathy.
  • Nerve injury or pressure: When vehicle accidents, falls, or sports injuries occur, there is an increased risk of nerve injury.
  • Medications: Chemotherapy treatments can cause neuropathy.
  • Poison Exposure: A person exposed to toxic substances such as industrial chemicals, mercury, and lead may be at increased risk of neuropathy.

These are the main reasons why peripheral neuropathy can appear. However, there are some cases where it is considered an idiopathic pathology, that is, the cause cannot be identified.

How is this disease diagnosed?

The patient who presents symptoms must go to the doctor to be attended by a specialist who will examine and evaluate the symptoms they present. Through a blood test, the cause of neurological damage is sought. However, the specialist may recommend other tests such as electromyography, nerve conduction study, skin biopsy, and nerve biopsy.

In this way, the doctor can have a broader picture of how the nerve endings are working and rule out any other possible pathology.

Treatment for peripheral neuropathy

Treatment varies depending on the cause of the disease. In the case of those patients with diabetes, they must learn to properly control their blood sugar levels. For this, it is recommended that you visit a nutritionist who will help you improve your diet and regulate your sugar intake.

The studies carried out by the patient will allow him to identify if he requires a change in medications or consumes vitamin supplements. Patients with neuropathy usually have low levels of vitamin B12 and other vitamins, so with an adequate diet it could be controlled.

In the cases of those patients who have been through a car or sports accident, the doctor may recommend exercises to improve muscle strength and control. In some cases, the use of orthopedic devices, wheelchairs, or splints helps the patient to improve the movement of the parts of the body where there is neurological damage. As a last resort, if the pain continues to be constant, the doctor may recommend surgery on the affected nerve to remove the pressure it is suffering.

When peripheral neuropathy occurs due to an autoimmune disorder, the patient will require treatment that suppresses the immune system. It is important that all patients with this disease talk to their GP to find out what the risks of transmission to their children are.

Physiotherapy treatment for peripheral neuropathy

Physiotherapy is an alternative to improve mobility, balance, coordination and stability in patients with neuropathies. Specialists in this area create a series of exercises that help strength, elasticity, endurance and balance.

Prevent neuropathy

  • Take a balanced diet.
  • Completely avoid alcohol consumption.
  • Adequately monitor diabetes.
  • Checking and monitoring health problems that a person may have.
  • Know if there is a risk of chemicals used in your work.

Timely attention to warning signs

It is important that those who notice one or more symptoms of neuropathy see their doctor immediately for a full evaluation. The earlier treatment is started, it will be much easier to prevent long-term problems and prevent the progression of neurological lesions.

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