What is Peripheral Neuropathy?

Ask The Doctor > Nervous System > What is Peripheral Neuropathy?

Peripheral Neuropathy is a type of disease that affects and damages your peripheral nervous system. PNS is a network of nerves that connects the brain and spinal cord (that is, central nervous system) to the rest of the body. The function of these nerves is to transmit and deliver signal and information about physical sensation of your body back to your brain. Peripheral Neuropathy occurs when malfunctioning of these nerves disrupts nerves normal function. There are three kinds of Peripheral nerves.

  • Motor Nerves, which are connected to your muscles and control different movements of the body.
  • Sensory Nerves, which are connected to your skin and control sensations, such as, pain, light touch and temperature.
  • Autonomic Nerves, which control the internal function of the body that are not in our control, such as heart beat and breathing.

Peripheral Neuropathy may affect one nerve group or may involve two or all three nerve groups. There are many signs and symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy and these symptoms depend on the type of nerve that is involved in it. Some of the major symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy involve the following.

  • excessive sweating
  • diarrhea
  • digestion difficulties
  • constipation
  • numbness in feet or hands
  • a drop in blood pressure
  • thinning of the skin
  • a shocking or a buzzing sensation
  • sexual dysfunction
  • tingling in feet or hands
  • a feeling like wearing a tight sock or glove

How Do I Know If It Is Serious?

The complications from peripheral neuropathy can get serious in some cases. There are two main situations in which peripheral neuropathy can be life threatening.

  • When you are unable to feel your feet and hands. This means that a patient can unknowingly sustain damages, such as burns and cuts, which, if infected, can be very dangerous.
  • When nerve damage affects your heart functions and breathing, then your condition can be fatal. This can also result in the increased risk of accidents due to loss of strength and muscle control.

Treatment of Peripheral Neuropathy

Effective treatment of this disease relies on the cause of the nerve damage. For instance, improved diet and vitamin therapy can treat peripheral neuropathy, which is caused by vitamin deficiency. Similarly, peripheral neuropathy, which is caused by medications or toxic substances, such as alcohol abuse can be treated by avoiding alcohol. When neuropathy peripheral is related to diabetes, then careful blood sugar level monitoring may curb symptoms and slow its progression.

Surgical treatment can also be recommended for patients with nerve damage from nerve compression or injury. Mobility aids, for instance a wheelchair, walker or cane, may be helpful. Pain medication can also be prescribed by doctor for severe pain. In addition, many patients also found relief for peripheral neuropathy through yoga, meditation, massage, chiropractic care, regular exercise and acupuncture.

Prevention of Peripheral Neuropathy

Prevention is always better than cure. You can reduce the risk of peripheral neuropathy by:

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  • eating a healthy diet
  • avoiding alcohol
  • quitting or avoiding smoking
  • getting moderate, regular exercise

Dr. Jimmy Obaji M.D.

Dr. Jimmy Obaji completed his residency in Family Medicine at the University of Manitoba. He currently operates a walk-in-clinic in downtown Toronto.

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