What is Peripheral Neuropathy?
Peripheral neuropathy is a health issue involving the peripheral nerves. These nerves extend away from the spinal cord and brain, and go to areas such as the extremities and organs. When hurt, they lead to feelings like prickling, numbness, or feebleness. Both motor nerves, which control body motions, and sensory nerves that sense pain, touch, and temperature can be impacted.
What are the Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy?
Depending on the type of nerve affected by peripheral neuropathy, the symptoms can change. Typical signs consist of:
- Itching or numbness in the hands and feet
- Sharp, burning or aching pain
- Extreme sensitivity to the lightest touch
- Loss of balance and coordination
- Muscle weakness or wasting away muscles
- Difficulty in walking
- Abnormal sweating
- Nausea or vomiting
- Problems with bladder and bowel function
- Changes in skin color or temperature
- Problems with vision, speech or hearing
- Sexual dysfunction
Types of Peripheral Neuropathy
- Diabetic Neuropathy
- Diabetic Neuropathy is a condition in which nerves become harmed due to diabetes. It can affect various areas of the body and manifests in symptoms ranging from numbness or tingling in the feet to digestive problems. There are four varieties of diabetic neuropathy: peripheral, autonomic, focal, and proximal. Treatment is available to help reduce the effects of diabetic neuropathy, but reversing the damage it causes is often not possible.
- Compression/Entrapment Neuropathy
- Compression/entrapment neuropathy is a condition that involves the compression or entrapment of nerves in the body. It is a common cause of pain, numbness, and tingling in the extremities. Compression or entrapment of nerves can result from an injury, nerve compression against a structure within the body, or an abnormality in the system itself. Treatment for compression/entrapment neuropathy may include lifestyle modifications, medications, therapies, or even surgery, depending on the severity of the condition.
- Hereditary Neuropathy
- Hereditary neuropathy is a rare neurological disorder caused by a genetic defect passed down within families. It is characterized by a slowly progressive loss of nerve fibers, leading to muscle weakness, impaired sensation and coordination loss, and other symptoms. This condition usually begins in childhood or the teenage years and becomes more severe over time. Treatment typically focuses on managing the symptoms of the disease to help improve function and quality of life.
- Inflammatory Neuropathies
- Inflammatory neuropathies arise when the immune system mistakenly harms the nerves. This can lead to debilitating symptoms such as pain, numbness, loss of muscle function, and abnormal sensations. It is often accompanied by fatigue and weakness. Treatment of these conditions typically involves medications to reduce inflammation and restore nerve function.
- Toxic Neuropathy
- Toxic neuropathy is a type of nerve damage caused by exposure to certain toxic substances. Drug overdose, alcohol, heavy metals, and other industrial chemicals usually cause it. Signs of this may be feeling of numbness, prickling, lack of strength, and/or ache in the arms or legs, as well as difficulties with equilibrium and dexterity, pins and needles and/or pain in the arms or legs, as well as difficulty with balance and coordination. Treatment depends on the underlying cause, ranging from medication and physical therapy to supportive care and lifestyle changes.
- AIDS-Related Neuropathy
- AIDS-Related Neuropathy is caused by HIV infection, which affects the nerves. Symptoms may include numbness and tingling, pain, and loss of feeling in different body areas.
- Nutritional Neuropathy
- Nutritional Neuropathy is nerve damage due to insufficient intake of essential vitamins and minerals in the diet. It can affect sensation, movement, gland or organ function, or other aspects of health, depending on which nerves are affected. Nutritional Neuropathy can include numbness, pain, tingling or loss of sensation in the hands, arms, legs or feet, digestive problems, weakness, fatigue, and abnormal blood pressure.
- Metabolic Neuropathy
- Metabolic neuropathy is related to metabolic conditions such as diabetes, kidney failure, certain vitamin deficiencies, and alcohol abuse. This type of neuropathy can lead to nerve damage from a buildup of toxic metabolic byproducts, an interruption in the nerve’s blood supply, and/or a deficiency of neurochemicals. Signs typically encompass suffering, prickling, and searing sensations in the palms and feet, alongside tiredness and decreased coordination of the limbs.
- Alcoholic Neuropathy
- Alcoholic neuropathy is nerve damage that can occur due to chronic and excessive alcohol use. It affects numerous nerves in the body, damaging the myelin sheath that covers and insulates the nerve, leading to muscle weakness, pain, tingling, and even paralysis. Treatment includes quitting alcohol, managing the symptoms, and physical therapy.
- Drug-Induced Neuropathy
- Drug-induced neuropathy is a condition caused by exposure to certain drugs or toxins. This can cause harm to nerves and give rise to signs such as aches, helplessness, pricking, and a decreased awareness in the involved area. Common drugs associated with this type of neuropathy are specific chemotherapy drugs, alcohol, and some antibiotics.
- Vascular Neuropathy
- Vascular Neuropathy is a type of peripheral Neuropathy that is the consequence of harm to the blood vessels supplying the nerves in the arms and legs. This damage can disrupt the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to these nerves, leading to degeneration, impaired function, and pain. Common signs and symptoms of vascular Neuropathy may include tingling, burning, pain, and weakness in the affected area.
- Infectious Neuropathy
- A neurological condition termed Infectious Neuropathy is often associated with Guillain-Barre syndrome, characterized by an attack on the peripheral nerves by the body's immune system. It is caused by a variety of infections, including those caused by viruses, bacteria, parasites, or fungi. Symptoms can range from mild tingling and numbness to complete paralysis. Treatment typically involves antibiotics, antiviral, and/or anti-inflammatory medications. In some cases, the patient may also need to undergo physical therapy and/or surgery.
What Causes a Peripheral Neuropathy to Develop?
Peripheral neuropathy can be caused by various medical conditions, including diabetes, infections, autoimmune diseases, vitamin deficiencies, exposure to toxins, and trauma. In some cases, the cause is unknown.
Factors that Increase the Risk of Developing Peripheral Neuropathy
- Chronic Alcoholism
- Diabetes Mellitus
- Vitamin Deficiencies
- Exposure to Toxins or Metals
- Auto-Immune Diseases
- Excess Pressure on Nerves or Tendon Injury
- Certain Medications
- Kidney Failure or Liver Disease
- Certain Cancers
Prevention Strategies for Peripheral Neuropathy
- Quit smoking: People who smoke are at a greater risk of developing peripheral neuropathy. Quitting smoking reduces the risk of developing permanent nerve damage and can help manage existing symptoms.
- Maintain a healthy diet: Eating a balanced and nutritious diet can help maintain healthy blood sugar levels and reduce one’s risk of developing diabetic neuropathy.
- Exercise regularly: Low-impact exercises like walking, yoga, and swimming can promote good circulation, which is essential for healthy nerve function. Regular exercise can also help to alleviate symptoms of neuropathy.
- Monitor blood sugar levels: Managing blood sugar is critical for people with diabetes to prevent nerve damage. Individuals with diabetes should check their blood sugar amounts often if they are in danger of getting peripheral neuropathy.
- Treat any underlying causes: Early treatment of any conditions that can cause peripheral neuropathy is essential. Treating the underlying condition immediately is key to preventing permanent nerve damage.
- Wear supportive footwear: Wear supportive shoes and avoid high heels or thin-soled shoes can prevent further foot damage for those with peripheral neuropathy.
- Take regular breaks: Working at a desk or standing for long hours can cause fatigue and stress on the nerves. Taking several breaks throughout the day can help alleviate symptoms.
- Protect your hands: Wearing protective gloves can help prevent further nerve damage in the hands.
- Take supplements: Adding certain supplements, such as B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, alpha-lipoic acid, vitamin E, and acetyl-L-carnitine, to one’s diet can help reduce the severity of peripheral neuropathy.
- Avoid activities that strain nerves: Avoid activities that stress your nerves, such as staying in the same position for an extended period.
Diet and Nutrition for Peripheral Neuropathy
Eating a balanced and nutritious diet should be a priority to help manage peripheral neuropathy symptoms. Eating foods high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants can help improve nerve health and reduce inflammation. Choose nutrient-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
Increase your intake of B-complex vitamins. B vitamins help to aid the process of converting carbs into glucose and are necessary for healthy nerve function. Excellent sources of B vitamins include dark leafy greens, eggs, fish, nuts, and legumes. Consuming adequate levels of vitamin E is also essential as it helps prevent oxidative damage to nerve cell membranes. Highly concentrated sources of Vitamin E include plant oils, wheat germ, and avocados.
- Reduce your consumption of unhealthy fats and processed foods, which can worsen nerve pain and increase inflammation. Choose healthy fats like olive oil, avocado, and walnuts when possible.
- It is also necessary to limit sugar intake. Foods with high sugar content can contribute to inflammation and nerve damage.
- Be sure to stay hydrated all day long. Staying hydrated helps keep your nerve cells functioning and can reduce neuropathy symptoms.
- Some neuropathy patients should take supplements with omega-3 fatty acids, as studies have shown that omega-3s may help decrease pain and improve nerve function.
- Lastly, consult a podiatrist or nutritionist to create a plan best suited to help manage neuropathy.
Coping Strategies for Living with Peripheral Neuropathy
- Re-examine your lifestyle: Many cases of neuropathy are caused by conditions that can be managed or reversed through lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet, taking regular exercise, and controlling blood sugar levels for those with diabetes.
- Manage your pain: If you are in pain, reduce your discomfort. Consult your podiatrist about possible treatment options, such as antidepressants and anticonvulsants.
- Avoid injury: Be aware of your feet and hands, and avoid injuring them. Wear supportive shoes or braces, use padding to protect your feet when walking or standing, and be careful when handling hot or cold items.
- Take care of your feet: Regularly inspect your feet and toes and make sure they are clean and dry, trim your toenails, and check your shoes for any foreign objects.
- Maintain good habits: Stay hydrated and get plenty of sleep, avoid prolonged periods of sitting or standing, and look after your skin with lots of moisturizers.
- Stay active: Consider joining a rehab center for strength, coordination and physical therapy. Participate in low-impact activities such as swimming, walking, tai chi, and yoga.
- Seek help from family and friends: Ask close friends and family to provide practical help and support.
- Connect with a support group: Consider joining a support group to connect with others with peripheral neuropathy. Talking to others and understanding their experience can help you feel less alone.
- Take time for yourself: Coping with any illness can be exhausting, so remember to take time out for yourself and do something that makes you feel better.
Planning Your Next Visit
At Greenberg Podiatry in Ottawa, our staff takes great pride in offering exceptional and sympathetic care. We are devoted to staying on the cutting edge of new treatments for our patients, helping them to stay active and healthy. We don't just treat current issues but try to predict and ward off any problems that could arise in the future. We are willing to go beyond basic medical remedies to ensure you get the best care.
Take advantage of our special assistance by reaching out to Greenberg Podiatry now! A few basic steps could drastically improve your well-being.