Understanding Peripheral Neuropathy, Part I
Peripheral Neuropathy (PN) has become a troubling issue for many people. It usually begins in the hands and feet but then progresses up the arms and legs. The most common symptoms associated with PN are pain, swelling, numbness, or a “pins and needles” sensation. It has been estimated that over 20 million people in the US alone have PN. Nearly 60% of those suffering from diabetes will also experience symptoms of PN. Neuropathies (diseases of the nerves) occur when there is nerve damage or disease in the nerves that connect the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body.
What Is Peripheral Neuropathy?
The “peripheral” nerves (those not a part of the brain or spinal column) send information to and from the brain to the other parts of the body. Information such as a message that the feet are cold or that we have just burned a finger is sent to the brain by these nerves. When these nerves become damaged, it is like getting static on a telephone—the message cannot get through properly.
Each nerve carries messages to or from a specific part of the body. When PN damages a number of nerves, it can affect many organs and systems. At its worst, it can interfere with digestion of food, cause paralysis, cause blood pressure to fluctuate dangerously, or cause organ failure.
Some neuropathies are acute. With this type, the sufferer will experience symptoms suddenly, and the symptoms will progress rapidly. Since it takes time for these nerves to heal, resolution of the symptoms will typically be slow. Chronic neuropathies are those where symptoms begin more gradually. There may be periods of relief followed by a recurrence of the symptoms. The periods of relief may even last months or years. These neuropathies are rarely fatal unless other diseases complicate the process. It may even be another disorder which is the cause of PN, such as diabetes.
It is most common for the nerves that are most distant from the brain to show symptoms first—the hands and feet. Often the pain is noticed bilaterally. Symptoms may then progress into the torso. This is very common in diabetic peripheral neuropathy.
Causes of Peripheral Neuropathy
Toxicity is a key in many causes of PN. This toxicity can come from medications, alcohol, heavy metals, or chemicals (such as pesticides). When toxins build up in the body, the liver, lungs, kidneys and skin are all taxed, since they are the body’s filtering system for toxins. Neuropathy can also be caused by other issues such as nutritional deficiencies, infections (Lyme disease, AIDS, or shingles), tumors, cancer treatments, or other hereditary disorders.
If you have been diagnosed with a peripheral neuropathy, we have seen good success with our patients by using microcurrent electrical stimulation. Give our office a call at 864-963-9304 if you have been looking for a solution to your peripheral neuropathy.