Neuropathy is nerve damage that can result from a wide range of conditions.
Among them are diabetes and chemotherapy treatments.
Neuropathy, sometimes referred to as peripheral neuropathy, isn’t a single health condition.
Rather, it is a term used to describe a wide range of health problems that involve damage to your peripheral nerves and the symptoms of the issues.
There, unfortunately, isn’t a cure for neuropathy.
Still, you can take steps that will help prevent neuropathy, or you can manage your neuropathy through various treatments, diet, and lifestyle adjustments.
In the article below, we’ll do a deep dive to answer the question what is neuropathy? And how neuropathy can be treated.
What Is Neuropathy?
Peripheral neuropathy is a condition affecting your peripheral nerves.
Your peripheral nerves send messages from your brain and your spinal cord to the rest of your body.
Your peripheral nerves tell your body when your hands or feet are cold.
This can lead to tingling, numbness, or muscle weakness.
Peripheral neuropathy can affect different areas. This is because it can affect many different nerves, impacting various parts of your body in different ways.
It’s possible for it to affect a single nerve or several nerves at the same time.
Peripheral neuropathy is also linked with several underlying medical conditions, affecting about 20 million people in the United States.
Here are a few quick facts about peripheral neuropathy:
- It’s a common complication of several different medical conditions.
- It can affect the autonomic nerves, the motor nerves, or the sensory nerves.
- Sometimes it affects a single nerve or a set of nerves. Bell’s Palsy, for example, affects a facial nerve.
- Physical trauma, infection, metabolic problems, repetitive injury, exposure to toxins, and certain drugs are all possible causes.
- People with diabetes can develop diabetic neuropathy.
How Is Peripheral Neuropathy Diagnosed?
If it’s suspected that you have a form of peripheral neuropathy, you will likely be referred to a neurologist specializing in diseases of the nerves.
The neurologist or doctor will go over the history of your symptoms.
After that, they will examine you for signs of muscle weakness, numbness, or impaired reflexes.
They may order blood or urine tests to check for diabetes, vitamin, or metabolic deficiencies.
They will also check for an underlying disease or genetic defect that could be affecting your nerve function.
If you’re going through chemotherapy, that may have caused your neuropathy.
Your doctor will also ask you about your alcohol intake and any medications you are taking.
You may also be given an electromyogram and nerve conduction velocity tests.
These will assess nerve and muscle function and measure the electrical properties of the nerves.
With these tests, your doctors should pinpoint any abnormal nerves and determine which part of their structure is damaged.
Nerve and muscle biopsies may be performed to provide valuable information about the type and cause of your condition.
A spinal tap may be recommended to identify any infection or inflammation associated with your condition.
If there is a history of neuropathy in your family or suffers from similar symptoms, your doctor may request their medical records to review them to look for hereditary links.
Causes of Neuropathy
Again, peripheral neuropathy can be caused by several conditions.
Some health conditions that can cause neuropathy are:
- Autoimmune diseases like Sjogren’s syndrome, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Guillain-Barre syndrome, chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, and vasculitis.
- Over half the people with diabetes develop some type of neuropathy.
- Certain viral or bacterial infections, like Lyme disease, shingles, Epstein-Barr virus, hepatitis B and C, leprosy, diphtheria, and HIV.
- Disorders such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease are hereditary types of neuropathy.
- Cancerous and noncancerous growths can develop on or press on your nerves. Polyneuropathy can occur as a result of cancers related to your body’s immune response.
- Bone marrow disorders, a form of bone cancer, lymphoma, and amyloidosis.
- Other diseases like kidney disease, liver disease, connective tissue disorders, and an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism).
- A high intake of alcohol and the poor dietary choices made by people with alcoholism can lead to vitamin deficiencies.
- Toxic substances include industrial chemicals and heavy metals such as lead and mercury.
- Certain medications, especially those used to treat cancer, can cause nerve damage.
- Traumas, like those in motor vehicle accidents, falls, or sports injuries, can damage or even sever peripheral nerves.
- Having a cast or using crutches, or repeating a motion such as typing many times.
- B vitamins like B-1, B-6, and B-12, vitamin E, and niacin are crucial to nerve health.
Sometimes your doctor can’t identify a cause (idiopathic).
Your doctor can use treatments to manage your condition and relieve symptoms.
If you don’t have an underlying condition, your doctor will likely wait to see if your neuropathy improves.
If it doesn’t, there are several treatments that can help.
Medications used to relieve peripheral neuropathy symptoms include:
- Over-the-counter pain medications like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, can relieve mild symptoms. Severe symptoms might require prescription painkillers. These medications can lead to dependence and addiction, so they are usually only prescribed when other treatments fail.
- Anti-seizure medications like gabapentin and pregabalin that were developed to treat epilepsy can relieve nerve pain. You may experience drowsiness and dizziness.
- Capsaicin cream can cause modest improvements in peripheral neuropathy symptoms. There might be a burning sensation where you apply the cream, but it gets better over time. Some people can’t tolerate it or don’t want to tolerate it. They may opt for lidocaine patches that you apply to your skin that for pain relief. Side effects can include drowsiness, dizziness, and numbness at the site of the patch.
- Certain tricyclic antidepressants have been found to help relieve pain by interfering with chemical processes in your brain that cause you to feel pain. The serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor duloxetine and the extended-release antidepressant venlafaxine may also ease the pain of peripheral neuropathy caused by diabetes. Side effects you may experience include dry mouth, nausea, drowsiness, dizziness, decreased appetite, and constipation.
When Should You See A Doctor?
If you notice unusual tingling, weakness, or pain in your hands or feet, you should seek medical attention right away.
An early diagnosis and treatment are the best chance to control your symptoms and prevent further damage from occurring to your peripheral nerves.
If you haven’t been able to find relief from the treatments listed above and you’re worried about your outlook, you should visit Ethos Health Group.
Ethos Health Group has developed a proven treatment process to determine how much nerve damage you have and if their doctors can treat your condition.
We will perform a series of non-invasive tests that will show us the extent of your condition and what options you have for treatment.
After we’ve performed these tests, we will know if your neuropathy has reached the “point of no return” or if you will benefit from our treatment programs.
The treatment programs that are available at Ethos Health Group consist of cutting-edge, non-invasive therapies that are designed to stimulate the growth of new blood vessels and to reverse nerve damage in the feet or hands.
If you’re ready to find relief from your neuropathy, you should contact Ethos Health Group as soon as possible.
Click the button below to schedule your free consultation.