What Is Peripheral Neuropathy?
Peripheral Neuropathy is damage or disease that affects the peripheral nervous system (that complex web of nerves that connect the spinal cord to your arms, legs, and trunk). It is a progressive, degenerative disease that gets worse over time.
What Are The Common Symptoms With Peripheral Neuropathy?
Peripheral neuropathy involves a common group of symptoms that include:
- Burning pain
- Balance problems
- Restless leg syndrome
- Feelings that your feet (or hands) are too hot or too cold
You don’t have to have all of these symptoms if you have peripheral neuropathy. You could have one symptom, or more than one.
What Causes Peripheral Neuropathy?
There are over 100 root causes for peripheral neuropathy. Some of the more common ones are diabetes, trauma, poor circulation, spinal problems (like arthritis, stenosis, or a herniated disc), certain medications, and autoimmune diseases.
What Do Doctors Use To Treat Neuropathy?
Doctors treat neuropathy symptoms with drugs that may temporarily reduce some symptoms. The drugs have names such as Gabapentin, Neurontin, and Lyrica. They are medications classified as anti-seizure drugs (formulated to treat epilepsy). The way they work is to slow down the brain so you can’t feel your feet. These drugs don’t slow down or stop the progress of the disease whatsoever.
What Is It Like Living With Peripheral Neuropathy?
Living with peripheral neuropathy can be frustrating. It can limit your mobility (making simple things like going for a walk, climbing a flight of stairs, or getting down on the ground to play with the grandkids difficult to impossible).
The problem interferes with getting a good night’s sleep, and taking care of your own property, and threatens to take away your independence. People with neuropathy can have problems playing in their garden, exercising, traveling, socializing, or going grocery shopping.
When the neuropathy problems start affecting one’s balance, it can lead to devastating consequences. Imagine trying to carry a basket of laundry (or groceries), upstairs from the basement. You lose your balance and fall down the stairs to the hard, concrete floor. This can cause a brain bleed, a broken hip, or some kind of other trauma. Falls are the #1 cause of death among seniors.
Can You Help Me?
Recovery is possible. Many have even spoken with their doctors and either reduced or completely eliminated their medications. The amount of treatment needed to allow the nerves to fully recover varies from person to person and can only be determined after a consultation, and detailed neurological and vascular evaluation. As long as there is less than 85% nerve damage, there is hope and help.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is peripheral neuropathy?
Peripheral neuropathy is a disease or damage to the peripheral nerves (the nerves that go down your arms, your legs, or wrap around your trunk).
What are the warning signs of peripheral neuropathy?
Symptoms of neuropathy may include numbness, tingling, cramping, weakness, poor balance, feelings of cold or heat in the feet or hands, loss of dexterity in your fingers, restless leg syndrome, and burning pain. You don’t necessarily need to have all of these symptoms. You could only have one, or you can have more than one.
What are the four stages of peripheral neuropathy?
- Stage one: You feel intermittent numbness or tingling.
- Stage two: the numbness & tingling get more and more frequent and gain in intensity
- Stage three: additional symptoms appear (such as burning pain, weakness, cramping, and the feet start feeling cold)
- Stage four: this is when the symptoms continue to get more intense and frequent. It interrupts basic functions (like sleeping, walking, or climbing stairs).
What is the best thing to do for peripheral neuropathy?
The best thing is to do something to improve nerve function, control diabetes, stop smoking, and in general get healthier. The worst thing you could do is endlessly procrastinate taking care of a chronic health problem or just mask symptoms with common medications (gabapentin, Neurontin, Lyrica, or Cymbalta). If left uncorrected, it will get worse.
What triggers peripheral neuropathy?
There are over 100 reasons why people suffer from peripheral neuropathy. The most common one is diabetes. 75% of all diabetics have some form of neuropathy. But you don’t necessarily have to be a diabetic to have neuropathy. Some of the other causes are spinal cord problems (like spinal stenosis, a herniated disc, or a bulging disc), trauma, infectious disease, certain medications, exposure to toxins, autoimmune diseases, thyroid problems, and more.
Does peripheral neuropathy go away?
No, peripheral neuropathy does not go away. It gets worse over time.
Can you recover from peripheral neuropathy?
As long as the nerves are still salvageable, recovery is possible. Once the nerves are so badly damaged that nothing can be done, it’s too late.
How do you test for peripheral neuropathy?
We check the function of:
- Balance pathways
- Sensory pathways
- Motor pathways