What is peripheral neuropathy?
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Peripheral Neuropathy (PN) is the term used to describe disorders of the peripheral nerves. Even though 10 to 20 million people in the US suffer with PN, information is hard to come by. Neuropathy is simply defined as “disease or abnormality of the nervous system." We think of neuropathy as any damage to the nervous system. Nerves can become " sick "or damaged in a number of ways. This abnormality may be caused through physical injury/trauma to the nerves, by a systemic problem or after suffering an infection or autoimmune disorder. Diabetes is an example of systemic disease that affects all nerves of the body from the brain, eyes and small nerves of the heart and digestive system, to the nerves in the hands feet and legs, 40%- 50% of diabetics will develop some form of neuropathy depending on how well they are able to control there sugars though medication or by a low glycemic diet. Neuropathy can be related to physical injury or trauma to the nerves by a spinal condition or injury, such as, spinal stenosis or an herniated disc placing pressure on the nerves as they exit the vertebral column.
What are common causes of Peripheral Neuropathy?
2. Spinal related trauma
3. Relate to medication
4. Damage due to chemotherapy
5. Viral, such as, shingles
What are the common symptoms of peripheral neuropathy?
Each peripheral nerve has a very specialized function, so the way in which each patient describes their pain will be different. Generally, patients describe symptoms as numbness, loss of sensation with an associate description of pain, sharp/stabbing pain, burning pain especially at night , and/or a band like tightness surrounding the effected limb. Some patients describe their discomfort as a leather or a sock-like feeling around their feet. Typically, the nerve disorder starts in the toes and progresses to the feet and legs and can eventually reach the hands and arms. Even though there are many different kinds of neuropathy, this type of ascending progression is most common. As the nerve damage progresses, the smallest fibers will be effected first and this can be confirmed by biopsy, typically there can be a decrease in the density or in the population of the nerves to the skin. This is called small fiber neuropathy and is the most common neuropathy that we see.
The 7 common symptoms of peripheral neuropathy :
- Burning pain.
- Sharp, electric pain.
- Hurt when you walk.
- Difficulty sleeping from leg/foot discomfort.
- Prickling/tingling feelings.
What is the first step for Treatment?
The first step is to have your condition properly diagnosed. Due to the complexity of the nervous system, peripheral neuropathy can be difficult to diagnosis. Every patient will have their own way to explain what symptoms they are experiencing and their own way of understand their pain. So it is important that you see a doctor that is properly trained in identifying peripheral neuropathy and has examination protocols that can help understand where and how severe the peripheral neuropathy is.
Dr. Mountain has been in practice for 20 years. He has always taken a special interest in conditions related to the nervous system. He has over 300 hours of post graduate neurology training which is certified through the American Chiropractic Neurology Board. He is also a member of the Neuro Treatment Centers of America which focuses on the understanding and the non-pharmaceutical approach to treatment of peripheral neuropathy.