Peripheral neuropathy is a nerve disorder that is separate from the spinal cord and brain. Patients who have peripheral neuropathy might have burning pain, weakness, unusual sensations, numbness or tingling in the area that is affected. They symptoms are often symmetrical with both feet and hands being involved. Since the symptoms are present quite often in parts of the body that are covered by stockings or gloves, neuropathy is described at times as a distribution of “glove and stocking” symptoms.
Peripheral neuropathy may involve various types of nerves, including autonomic, sensory and motor nerves. In addition peripheral neuropathy is at times categorized on the basis of the size of nerve fibers, whether small or large.
There are a number of different symptoms that can be presented by neuropathy, including loss of balance, weakness, various types of pain or numbness, depending on what kind of nerve is involved. Since bodily functions are controlled by autonomic nerves that we think about consciously, like emptying of the bladder and bowel, digestion and heart rate, the symptoms of autonomic neuropathy manifest as losing control of those functions. Symptoms might include issues with sweating, heart rate, passage of stools (constipation or diarrhea), voiding or blood pressure.
There are similarities between peripheral neuropathy and cranial neuropathy, except for the involvement of the cranial nerves. Any of these cranial nerves might be involved. Cranial neuropathy has a number of different causes, the most common being blood flow loss from the optic artery into the optic nerve, which causes ischemic optic neuropathy. One of the most common causes of the rare disorder is amyloidosis.
Neuropathy may involve specific nerves. The involvement of a specific nerve means that the symptoms are limited to being distributed to that nerve. When it comes to peripheral nerves, the one that is most common is the wrist’s median nerve manifested in carpal tunnel syndrome. Any peripheral nerve may essentially become entrapped and can cause symptoms and signs of neuropathy. Quite often the ulnar nerve is entrapped at one’s elbow. Exposure of the peroneal nerve takes place at the outer area of the knee. Pain in the perineum may be caused by the pudendal nerve and relief can be achieved through sitting on an inflatable donut or toilet seat. At the waist the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve can become entrapped. This is referred to as meralgia paresthetica, which can cause the outer area of the thigh to become numb.
Although postherpetic neuralgia and diabetes are the two most common conditions that cause peripheral neuropathy, frequently no cause can be found. It is called idiopathic peripheral neuropathy in these situations.
At times carpal tunnel syndrome and other peripheral nerve entrapments are considered to be peripheral neuropathies. With these cases, instead of disease, pressure on the nerve is what leads to the nerve malfunctioning.
Peripheral Neuropathy Symptoms
Peripheral neuropathy symptoms will depend somewhat on what the cause is. Peripheral neuropathy typically affects the nerves involved with sensation. Patients with peripheral neuropathy will develop tingling, burning or pain in the nerves that are affected. This is most commonly in the hands and/or feet. It can cause burning, numbness and/or tingling in the fingers or toes.
When peripheral neuropathy is caused by shingles, the specific nerve that is affected will cause a localized itching and burning sensation. For example, this may be in the buttocks, the face, side of chest, etc.
Peripheral Neuropathy Diagnoses
Since there are so many presentations and causes of peripheral neuropathy, the first step in the diagnosis process is conducting a thorough physical exam and medical history. Certain tests that are performed during a physical exam, including monofilament and vibration testing, are quite accurate in being able to diagnose certain kinds of peripheral neuropathy, like large fiber peripheral neuropathy which is associated with diabetes. Other useful tests include electrodiagnostic studies, like electromyelography (EMG) and nerve conduction studies (NCS as well as blood tests for toxin exposure. However, those tests don’t help with small fiber neuropathy diagnoses. To help with diagnosing small fiber neuropahty, either quantitative sudomotor axon reflex testing (QSART) or skin biopsies are sometimes used.
The first step toward treating peripheral neuropathy effectively is locating the injury’s source and identifying the compressed or damaged nerve. There are several different causes of this kind of nerve damage, including illness, chemical injury and trauma. Diabetes is one of the more common conditions that cause peripheral neuropathy. It mostly affects the hands and feet. Elevated blood sugar may affect circulation can be toxic as well to the peripheral nerves.
Once it has been diagnosed correctly, the Superior Healthcare medical team can create a customize treatment plan for your peripheral neuropathy so that your specific conditions and symptooms can be treated utilizing a comprehensive approach that includes everything from physical therapies, chiropractic care, natural and medical treatments as well as a proper diet.
Our medical staff at Superior Healthcare is dedicated to correctly diagnosing the causes underlying your peripheral neuropathy and developing an effective treatment plan for alleviating your symptoms so that you can live the healthy and happy life that you truly deserve.