What is Peripheral Neuropathy?
Peripheral neuropathy is a condition that develops as a result of an injury or damage to the peripheral nervous system. Peripheral nerves carry information and sensors back to the brain and spinal cord. Any reaction you feel is the result of a proper working of the peripheral nerves. When these nerve centers are damaged or injured, the communication can get hampered and the reflexive reaction of the message may not reach the brain. They can be either acute or chronic. Peripheral neuropathy symptoms can be experienced for a few days to many months and in some cases, even years.
Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy:
There are three basic types of nerves.
- Motor nerves They control the voluntary movement of muscles. These include walking, moving, sitting, and talking. Motor nerve damage symptoms include muscle weakness and painful cramps in the muscles and joints. They also diminish your reflexes.
- Sensory nerves They are responsible for senses like touch, smell, sense of feel, etc. Sensory nerve damage symptoms include an aversion to senses. You might experience numbness and a diminished sense of touch. Your sensation might get reduced and sometimes you might feel light or heavy depending on the symptoms. You might feel that you are wearing tight clothing or socks and that your circulations are getting cut.
- Autonomic nerves They are responsible for organ activities such as breathing, digesting food, sweating, and other bodily functions. Autonomic nerve damage symptoms can include the inability of the body to perform normal bodily functions. This can include heat intolerance, loss of bladder control, excessive sweating, and a drop in blood pressure. Dizziness and fatigue are common occurrences in this type of nerve damages. The other symptoms can include difficulty in chewing and swallowing.
The neuropathies may affect only one particular nerve type or in some cases they may affect all the three.
How is peripheral neuropathy diagnosed?
Peripheral neuropathy symptoms are highly erratic. In some cases, the person might be having the underlying symptoms for many months before he/she seeks medical attention. A systematic neurological examination is required to diagnose peripheral neuropathy. Often your work habits, life style and social habits, and your alcohol intake levels are all understood to cover the type of nerve damage you might be experiencing. The tests would be mostly physical in nature and your various strengths are ascertained. For example, muscle strength, and strength of your hands, etc.
How can it be managed?
Acute cases and cases where you experience minor pain can be treated with pain killers and nonsteroidalanti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). More chronic cases would involve medications such as antidepressants, anticonvulsant medications, antiarrhythmic medications, and narcotic agents. In many cases, the root causes of the symptoms are identified and the medications and treatment plans charted out accordingly. You might require the help of a physiotherapist in some instances.