The peripheral nervous system transmits information to other body parts from the brain and spinal cord. When these nerves are damaged, a condition known as peripheral neuropathy follows.
Peripheral neuropathy causes pain, weakness, and numbness on the feet and hands. The condition can also alter other body functions such as digestion and urination.
People with the condition say that the pain is usually tingling, stabbing, and burning. The symptoms typically disappear with time if a treatable condition was the cause. Luckily, the pain reduces with proper medication.
Peripheral neuropathy is categorized into mononeuropathy, multiple mononeuropathy, or polyneuropathy. Mononeuropathy occurs when peripheral neuropathy attacks one nerve. Multiple mononeuropathies, on the other hand, occur when several nerves in different areas have fallen victim. Polyneuropathy, which is the most common, affects multiple nerves in other parts of the body.
Peripheral neuropathy symptoms depend on where the disease has attacked. There are three different types of nerves, all susceptible to a neuropathy attack.
- Motor nerves are responsible for muscle movement.
- Sensory nerves detect sensations such as pain, temperature changes, touch, and vibrations.
- Autonomic nerves control body processes such as perspiration, blood pressure, and heart rate.
When autonomic peripheral neuropathy affects autonomous nerves, one can observe heat intolerance and excessive sweating. More symptoms include dizziness due to a drop in blood pressure, digestive and bladder complications, and lack of sweat.
The warning signs of peripheral neuropathy are:
- Weak muscles
- Unexplained pain on feet and hands when doing simple activities
- Gradual numbness or tingling on the hands or feet which can slowly spread to the legs and arms
- When the condition reaches motor nerves, one could become paralyzed
- Inability to coordinate the body, which can sometimes result in falling
- High sensitivity to touch
Several disorders can contribute to nerve damage. These conditions include autoimmune diseases, infections, diabetes, tumors, inherited disorders, and bone marrow disorders. Some diseases like liver disease, kidney disease, and hypothyroidism also contribute majorly to peripheral neuropathy.
Other significant factors contributing to neuropathy include alcoholism, vitamin deficiencies, nerve injury, and exposure to poisons. However, there are times when doctors are unable to identify the cause of peripheral neuropathy.
Peripheral neuropathy results in the loss of sensory functions; hence one can sustain burns and injuries without noticing. Also, the failure of sensation and body weakness can result in frequent falls due to the inability to control one’s body.
Managing factors that expose one to peripheral neuropathy is the best way to manage the condition. Some of the disorders that one should keep in check include diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and alcoholism. Lifestyle tendencies such as eating healthy also help to alleviate the chances of occurrence of the disease.
It is estimated that peripheral neuropathy affects 25-30% of Americans. It is essential to schedule a doctor’s visit as soon as you detect unusual weakness, tingling, or pain in your feet and hands. Early diagnosis helps to slow down the proliferation of the symptoms, hence offering a better chance of recovery.