Peripheral neuropathy is a term used to describe the condition where the nerves are damaged or diseased. These nerves carry messages to and from the brain and spinal cord from, and to the rest of the body. Typically, when these nerves are damaged, it will affect one or more dermatomes, which can be tracked to specific areas of the body. Damage to these nerves disrupts communication with the brain and other parts of the body. It can damage muscle movement, prevent normal sensation in the arms and legs, and cause pain.
Neuropathy can fall under several different distinctions that stem from a variety of causes. These can range from carpal tunnel syndrome to nerve damage linked to diabetes. They are typically classified according to the problems they cause, the root of the damage, and how extensively the nerves have been damaged. These are:
Mononeuropathy - Damage to a single peripheral nerve. Most often caused by physical injury or trauma, usually from an accident. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common type of mononeuropathy as people whose work requires repeated motions with the wrist are generally at a higher risk of developing mononeuropathy. The damage to the nerve can result in numbness, tingling, unusual sensations, and pain in the first three fingers on the thumb side of the hand.
Polyneuropathy – This is the highest number of peripheral neuropathy cases. It occurs when multiple peripheral nerves throughout the body malfunction at the same time. Diabetic neuropathy is the most common form of chronic polyneuropathy. The most common symptoms of polyneuropathy are:
A physical exam will be performed first. Some of the elements of the exam can include:
Peripheral neuropathy can lead to various complications, due to the symptoms the disease produces. Numbness from the condition can cause diluted sensitivity to pain and temperatures, making it more likely you could suffer from burns and other serious injuries. The lack of sensations in the feet can also make you more prone to developing infections from minor traumatic injuries. This is especially true for diabetics and is a large complication of that particular disease. Muscle atrophy from neuropathy can cause you to develop any number of physical disfigurements, such as an abnormally high foot arch. Because of these complications, neuropathy should be diagnosed and treated by a professional as soon as possible.
Your doctor can use several medical treatments to control the symptoms of this condition. The treatment will be focused on the underlying disorder. For instance, if diabetes is the cause, controlling blood glucose levels is important to focus on. Many treatments can bring relief and help you return to your regular activities. Sometimes a combination of treatments works best.
Ergonomic casts or splints are useful to provide support and relieve pain. For example, a cast or splint that holds your wrists in a proper position while you sleep can relieve the discomfort of carpal tunnel syndrome. These are generally used for the: