PERIPHERAL NEUROPATHY

Overview

Causes

Symptoms

Complications

Prevention and treatment

Overview

This is a condition as a results of injury affecting the nerves (peripheral nerves) localized outside of the spinal cord and the brain (central nervous system). The damage to the nerves can cause pain, numbness and weakness. The most common locations are the hands and the feet but damage in other peripheral nerves may affect circulation, digestion and urination. The function of your peripheral nerves is to send sensory information to the brain and also to carries information to the brain to the rest of the body. One of the most common causes of peripheral neuropathy is diabetes but it can also results from trauma, metabolic problems, exposure to toxins, infections and inherited causes. For many causes the symptoms tend to improve. Medications can reduce the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.

Causes

Symptoms

 

The symptoms of peripheral neuropathy may vary according to which type of nerves is affected. There are different nerves with different specific functions. Nerves are classified as sensory nerves (sense temperature, pain, touch), motor nerves (control muscle movement), and autonomic nerves (control circulation, digestion, and urination).

Signs and symptoms of peripheral neuropathy might include:

  • Numbness

  • Tingling

  • Burning or sharp pain

  • Increased sensitivity to touch

  • Imbalance

  • Weakness

If the damage is in the autonomic nerves the symptoms are the following:

  • Inability to sweat or excessive sweating

  • Constipation or diarrhea

  • Urinary retention or urinary incontinence

  • Episodes of lightheadedness due to drops in blood pressure

  • Palpitation due to tachycardia

Complications

 

  • Skin lesions and burns. The numbness might cause loss of feeling pain or temperature.

  • Infections. 

  • Falls. May arise secondary to loss of balance sensation

Prevention and treatment

Preventive measures

 

  • Management of the underlying condition such as alcoholism or diabetes​

  • Habits to ensure appropriate nerve function:​

    • Exercise regularly. 

    • Avoid factors that may cause nerve damage, such as exposure to poisons, alcohol consumption, repetitive motions, and smoking.

    •  Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein to keep nerves healthy. Protect against vitamin B-12 deficiency by eating meats, fish, eggs, low-fat dairy foods and fortified cereals. If you're vegetarian or vegan, fortified cereals are a good source of vitamin B-12, but talk to your doctor about B-12 supplements.

Medications

There is no a specific and curative treatment for peripheral neuropathy in most of the cases, the following list of medications may be used for control of symptoms:

  • Gabapentin

  • Pregabaline

  • Antidepressants. Such as nortriptyline, amitriptyline, and duloxetine.

  • Topicals. Such as lidocaine or capsaicin

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