Your nerves carry information to and from the brain. They also carry signals to and from the spinal cord. You have many nerves outside of your spinal cord. They are all a part of your peripheral nervous system. They work with your brain and spinal cord. All of these parts give your body information about senses, moving, and the environment. Damage to any of the nerves outside of your brain or spinal cord is peripheral neuropathy. What you feel and where it is will depend on what nerves are affected.
What causes Peripheral Neuropathy?
Sometimes, the cause is not known.
What can make this more likely to happen?
Having a health problem for a long period of time. These illnesses may include:
High blood sugar
Chronic kidney disease
Rheumatoid arthritis or lupus
Drugs used to treat other diseases
Toxins like heavy alcohol use or pesticides
Pressure on a nerve or a broken bone
Other things like problems with blood flow or swelling
What are the main signs?
The signs depend on what nerves are damaged. They may include:
Pain, numbness, and tingling that often starts in the feet or hands
Not able to feel hot or cold
More sensitive to touching things
Poor coordination, muscle weakness, cramping, or twitching
Bowel and bladder problems like loose or hard stools, leaking urine, not able to pass urine
Trouble swallowing or breathing
Lots of sweating
How is this problem diagnosed?
Your provider will do an exam and ask about your history. Your doctor will feel around the area of the body where you are having problems. Your doctor will check the feeling in your arms and legs. Your reflexes, motion, and strength will also be checked. If your problems are in your legs, your provider may have you walk and stand on your heels and toes. The doctor may order:
Nerve conduction velocity test (NCV) − to see how fast electrical signals go through nerves
Electromyelogram (EMG) − to look at how well the nerves are working in the muscles
CT or MRI scan
Nerve or skin biopsy to look at nerve tissue
How Is Peripheral Neuropathy Treated?
Treating your neuropathy means treating the cause. This may include:
Controlling blood sugar
Limiting use of beer, wine, and mixed drinks (alcohol)
Treating a vitamin deficiency
Brace or splint to keep pressure off the nerves
Cane, walker, or wheelchair to help you get around safely
Compression sleeves or stockings
Exercises for strengthening weak muscles and stretching tight muscles
Ventilator if breathing is very poor
Are there other health problems to treat?
If neuropathy is causing trouble with certain things such as balance, digestion, or bladder and bowel function, these things will need to be treated.
What drugs may be needed?
Your provider may order drugs to:
Control blood sugar
Help with pain
Suppress the immune system
Help with eating, bathroom, or sex problems
What problems could happen?
Long-term pain or nerve damage
Sores on the feet
Loss of balance, trouble walking, and a higher risk of falling
Damage to peripheral nerves can affect your blood flow and heartbeat
What can be done to prevent this health problem?
Control high blood sugar.
Limit alcohol use.
If you are a smoker, quit. Smoking lessens the blood supply to peripheral nerves.
If you have a vitamin deficiency, talk to your doctor to see if you need to add any vitamins to your diet.
Keep a healthy weight. If you are overweight, lose weight.
Avoid toxic chemicals, pesticides, and other toxins.