Your peripheral nervous system connects the nerves from the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system) to the rest of the body, including the arms, hands, feet, legs, internal organs, mouth and face. The job of these nerves is to deliver signals about physical sensations back to your brain.
Peripheral neuropathy is a disorder that occurs when these nerves malfunction because they are damaged or destroyed. This disrupts the nerves’ normal functioning. They might send signals of pain when there is nothing causing pain, or they might not send a pain signal even if something is harming you. This can be caused by injury, systemic illness, infection, or may be associated with an inherited disorder.
Peripheral neuropathy can also be categorized by the size of the nerve fibers involved, large or small. Peripheral neuropathy can involve different nerve types, including:
- Sensory nerves – responsible for transmitting sensations, such as pain and touch
- Motor nerves – responsible for controlling muscles and movements
- Autonomic nerves – responsible for regulating automatic functions of the body, such as blood pressure and bladder function
People whose work requires repeated motions with the wrist (such as assembly-line workers, physical laborers, and those who use computer keyboards for prolonged periods) are at greater risk of developing a mononeuropathy called Carpal tunnel syndrome. It occurs when the nerve that travels through the wrist is compressed.
Every other female in India is deficient of folic acid and Vitamin B-12 which are essential for the healthy neurons and entire nervous system. Deficiency of these essential nutrients makes Indian females more prone to peripheral neuropathy even in early age. Similarly, peripheral neuropathy is also very common in pregnant females due to not maintaining their levels of calcium, folic acid, Vitamin B-12 and other essential nutrients.
Causes of Peripheral Neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy may be either inherited or acquired through disease processes or trauma. In some cases, no cause can be identified and this is termed idiopathic peripheral neuropathy.
- Road traffic accidents
- Sports-related injuries
- Surgical procedures
- Dislocated bone
- Fractured bone
- Repeated stress/ motion
- Shingles (post herpetic neuralgia)
- Vitamin deficiency, particularly B12 and folate
- Alcohol consumption
- Under active thyroid gland (hypothyroidism)
- Autoimmune diseases, including lupus, rheumatoid arthritis or Guillain-Barre syndrome
- AIDS, whether from the disease or its treatment, syphilis, and kidney failure
- Inherited disorders, such as amyloid polyneuropathy or Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease
- Exposure to toxins, such as heavy metals, gold compounds, lead, arsenic, mercury etc
- Certain medications like statins, cancer therapy drugs etc.
- Inflammation of the blood vessels (vasculitis)
- Chronic liver disease
- Chronic kidney disease
- Cancers or tumors
Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy
Peripheral Neuropathy symptoms usually start with numbness, prickling or tingling in the toes or fingers. It may spread up to the feet or hands and cause burning, freezing, throbbing and/or shooting pain that is often worse at night.
The pain can be either constant or periodic, but usually the pain is felt equally on both sides of the body in both hands or in both feet. Some types of peripheral neuropathy develop suddenly, while others progress more slowly over many years.
The symptoms of peripheral neuropathy often include:
- A sensation of wearing an invisible “glove” or “sock”
- Burning sensation or freezing pain
- Sharp, jabbing, shooting, or electric-like pain
- Extreme sensitivity to touch
- Difficulty sleeping because of feet and leg pain
- Loss of balance and coordination
- Muscle weakness
- Muscle cramping/twitching
- Difficulty walking or moving the arms
- Unusual sweating
- Abnormalities in blood pressure or pulse
- Digestion difficulties
- Excessive sweating
- Weak, heavy-feeling arms and legs (sometimes it may feel like your Legs or arms “lock” in place)
- Regularly dropping things from your hands
- A buzzing or shocking sensation
- Thinning of the skin
- Loss of balance and co-ordination
- Improper gait (if in lower limb)
Symptoms like experiencing weakness or not being able to hold something, not knowing where your feet are, and experiencing pain that feels as if it is stabbing or burning in your limbs, can be common signs and symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.
The symptoms of peripheral neuropathy may depend on the kind of peripheral nerves that have been damaged. There are three types of peripheral nerves: motor, sensory and autonomic. Some neuropathies affect all three types of nerves, while others involve only one or two. The majority of people, however, suffer from polyneuropathy, an umbrella term for damage involving many nerves at the same time.
Prevention of Peripheral Neuropathy
You can prevent Peripheral neuropathy by making following healthy lifestyle choices:
- Take care of your feet, especially if you have diabetes. Wear soft, loose cotton socks and padded shoes.
- Regular exercise, such as walking three times a week, can reduce neuropathy pain, improve muscle strength and help control blood sugar levels. Gentle routines such as yoga and tai chi might also help.
- Quit smoking. Cigarette smoking can affect circulation, increasing the risk of foot problems and other neuropathy complications.
- Eat healthy meals. Good nutrition is especially important to ensure that you get essential vitamins and minerals. Include fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein in your diet.
- Avoid excessive alcohol. Alcohol can worsen peripheral neuropathy.
- Avoid factors that may cause nerve damage, including repetitive motions, poor postures and exposure to toxic chemicals
Home Remedy for Peripheral Neuropathy
Many sufferers of peripheral neuropathy are looking towards natural remedies as a feasible and safer alternative to pharmaceuticals and as a way to promote their general health. Home remedies vary from nutritional to herbal. These include:
- Cayenne can be used to relieve pain for those suffering peripheral neuropathy and other nerve complaints. Capsaicin is used for natural pain relief as well as its ability to promote circulation and digestion.
- Taking primrose oil supplements improve nerve function and the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy in diabetic sufferers. The evening primrose is a rich source of omega-6 acids which might help boost the repair of damaged nerve cells and promote their regrowth.
- Eat healthy diet rich in Vitamin B-6, B-12 as well as folic acid. These components are present in poultry and dairy products. These vitamins are important for the health of your nerves.
- You can take warm bath to relieve mild nerve pain as one of the home remedy. In fact, warm water helps boost your blood flow to leg skin so it makes you get rid of stress and feel relaxed. Check out the water temperature before you step in. It should not be too hot or too cold.
- You can use Lumino Cielo Gloves if you are suffering from CArpel Tunnel Syndrome i.e of the peripheral neuropathy. Mild Compression offered by this glove relieves stress and improves blood circulation. You can continue with your daily tasks with its open fingertip design. Similarly, you can use compression socks if you’ve complaints of diabetic neuropathy.
- Proper foot care is necessary for patients with diabetic neuropathy so Lumino Cielo offers special socks that keep your feet dry and free from bad odor.
Treatment of Peripheral Neuropathy
In many cases, symptoms improve, especially if caused by a treatable condition. The disorder is uncomfortable, but treatments can be very helpful. The most important thing to determine is whether peripheral neuropathy is the result of a serious underlying condition. Many treatments can bring relief and can help you to return to your regular activities. Sometimes a combination of treatments works best.
- Pain Medications
Over-the-counter pain medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) and Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, can be very helpful in controlling moderate pain.
- Prescription Medications
Many prescription pain medications can also help to control the pain of this condition. These include narcotics, some antiepileptic medicines, and some antidepressants. Other helpful prescription medicines include:
- COX-2 inhibitors
- Alpha-2 adrenergic agonists
- Corticosteroid injections
- Plasmapherisis is a blood transfusion in which potentially irritating antibodies are removed from the patient’s bloodstream.
- A nerve block is an injection of anesthetics directly into the nerves.
- Transcutaneous electronic nerve stimulation (TENS) doesn’t work for everyone, but many patients like it because it is a drug-free therapy.
- Ergonomic casts can help you if your feet, legs, arms, or hands are affected. These casts provide support for the part of your body that’s uncomfortable. This can relieve pain. For example, the discomfort of carpal tunnel syndrome can be relieved with a cast that holds your wrists in a proper position while you sleep.
- Physical Therapy (exercises, strength training, neuro-rehabilitation, muscle stimulations, electronic nerve stimulations etc.)
If it is caused by an underlying condition that is treatable, you might be able to stop your peripheral neuropathy by treating the larger problem. However, most often peripheral neuropathy can only be managed, not cured.