The early signs of neuropathy include numbness and tingling in your hands or feet. While a common cause of neuropathy is diabetes, it can also be the result of an injury, infection or exposure to toxins. It can also manifest as pain, weakness or a pins-and-needles sensation.
Neuropathy typically occurs when the peripheral nerves in your arms, hands, legs and feet are damaged, though it can impact any nerve in your body. The damage can manifest along a single nerve, or mononeuropathy, or multiple nerves, known as polyneuropathy, and the damaged nerves can be isolated to one area or found throughout the body, referred to as multiple polyneuropathy.
Neuropathy usually starts as a tingling sensation or numbness throughout your hands or feet, but the symptoms and their intensity depend on the type and location of the damaged nerve.
There are three types of nerves found throughout the body: sensory, motor and autonomic. Nerve damage to sensory or motor nerves may result in a gradually spreading numbness, stabbing or burning pain, sensitivity to touch and temperature shifts, loss of strength or coordination and muscle weakness or paralysis. Damaged autonomic nerves can lead to abnormal sweating, loss of bladder or bowel control, digestive issues and changes in blood pressure.
As the only certified neurodiagnostic center in the area, we have the tools needed to accurately diagnose neuropathy. You will need to undergo a physical exam, series of blood tests and a variety of diagnostic studies to test your nerves and reflexes, gauge your muscle strength and tone and reveal vitamin deficiencies and contributing conditions such as diabetes.
While we cannot repair the damaged nerves causing your neuropathy, we are able to manage your symptoms and prevent the neuropathy from progressing with a customized care and management plan.
From medication to alleviate pain to physical therapy and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), your treatment plan will be tailored to relieve pain while keeping your muscles and soft tissue flexible and strong.
For some patients, neuropathy symptoms are the result of a tumor or growth pressing on a nerve. If this is the case, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove it and eliminate your symptoms.
Neuropathy generally does not directly affect a person’s lifespan, and people diagnosed with the condition can absolutely enjoy a healthy, full life. However, severe untreated neuropathy can lead to complications that impact daily living. The progressive nature of nerve damage can lead to diminished sensation, muscle weakening, and reduced mobility. These issues might challenge an individual’s ability to perform daily activities independently. Despite these challenges, with effective medical intervention and lifestyle modifications, many people with neuropathy manage their symptoms well and lead fulfilling lives. It’s essential to have a tailored treatment plan and engage in self-care practices to maintain quality of life.
Peripheral neuropathy typically manifests as a range of symptoms that develop gradually. Common indicators include a persistent numbness or a tingling feeling that starts in the extremities, such as the toes and fingertips, and can extend to the arms and legs. Individuals may also experience various types of discomfort, including sharp or burning pains. Unusual sensitivity to touch is another symptom, where normal contact or pressure causes pain or discomfort. Additional symptoms might include muscle weakness, unusual sensations of wearing certain garments when not, and a decrease in motor function. It’s important to seek medical advice if you experience these symptoms, as early diagnosis can lead to more effective management of the condition.
Diabetic neuropathy arises primarily due to prolonged exposure to high blood sugar levels. Over time, these elevated glucose levels can harm the small blood vessels that nourish the nerves, especially in the extremities. This vascular damage hinders the supply of essential nutrients and oxygen to the nerves, leading to their gradual impairment. The deterioration of these nerves, particularly those in the peripheral regions of the body, is what brings about the symptoms associated with diabetic neuropathy. For individuals with diabetes, managing blood sugar levels is crucial to reduce the risk of developing neuropathy or slowing its progression.
Neuropathy flare-ups can be triggered by several factors, and these can vary from person to person. Common triggers include blood sugar spikes in diabetic patients, which can aggravate nerve damage. Exposure to certain toxins, including alcohol and some medications, can also lead to flare-ups. Nutritional deficiencies, particularly in vitamins B and E, which are vital for nerve health, can exacerbate symptoms. Additionally, physical stress or injury to the nerves, such as from repetitive motions or prolonged pressure, can induce a flare-up. In some cases, emotional stress and changes in weather or temperature might also worsen symptoms. Identifying personal triggers is a key step in effectively managing neuropathy.
Diagnosing peripheral neuropathy involves a comprehensive approach. A detailed medical history, including symptom analysis, lifestyle factors, and any pre-existing conditions, can play in important role in determining an accurate diagnosis. A physical examination is conducted to assess nerve function. This might include testing reflexes, muscle strength, and the ability to feel various sensations. Blood tests are also commonly done to help identify underlying causes like diabetes, vitamin deficiencies, or signs of autoimmune diseases. Additional tests, such as nerve conduction studies and electromyography, measure the electrical activity of nerves and muscles, respectively, to pinpoint the affected areas. In some cases, a nerve biopsy might be conducted for further analysis. A thorough diagnostic process is crucial for effective management of neuropathy.
The most effective treatment for neuropathy depends on the underlying cause. If the neuropathy is due to a condition like diabetes, managing that primary condition is key. Medications may be prescribed for pain relief, including over-the-counter painkillers, prescription drugs, or topical treatments. Antidepressants and anticonvulsants are sometimes used for their nerve pain-relieving properties. Other approaches, like physical therapy, can help improve mobility and reduce pain, too. There are also some lifestyle modifications, such as regular exercise, maintaining a healthy diet, and avoiding factors that can worsen neuropathy (like excessive alcohol consumption), that can make a difference in managing symptoms. In general, a holistic approach, often involving doctors, physical therapists, and other health professionals, is typically the most effective.
Small fiber neuropathy is a type of neuropathy where the small nerves in your skin, which are responsible for sensing pain and temperature, are affected. People with this condition often feel pain or burning sensations, especially in their hands and feet. They might also have a hard time detecting changes in temperature or noticing acute sensations like the prick of a needle. Unlike other types of neuropathy, small fiber neuropathy doesn’t usually cause weakness. It can be tricky to diagnose because routine nerve tests might not pick it up. Doctors often use a combination of skin biopsy tests, in-office examination, and blood work to help provide an accurate diagnosis. The treatment mainly focuses on managing symptoms and addressing any underlying conditions that might be causing it.
Neuropathy can be caused by a variety of factors. The most common cause is diabetes, which can damage nerves over time. Other possible causes include certain vitamin deficiencies, especially B vitamins, which are important for nerve health. Excessive alcohol consumption can also lead to neuropathy since alcohol can be toxic to nerves in high doses. Some infections, like shingles or HIV, and autoimmune diseases like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis can cause neuropathy, too. In some cases, the cause of neuropathy is unknown. It’s important to identify the underlying cause when possible, as it can guide treatment for better outcomes.
Many people with neuropathy notice that their symptoms get worse when they lie down. This could be because, when you’re lying still, you have fewer distractions and might become more aware of your pain. Also, lying down can change how blood flows in your body, which might affect your nerve pain. Sometimes, the position you’re in can put pressure on your nerves, making the pain worse. Experimenting with different sleeping positions and using supportive pillows can sometimes help reduce this discomfort. If your neuropathy symptoms change or worsen, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about it.