A Guide on Peripheral Neuropathy and Its Treatment

Around 30 million people suffer from some form of peripheral neuropathy. Diabetic neuropathy being at 60-70%, chemo-induced neuropathy at 40%, and 20% of neuropathies diagnosed with an unknown cause.

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There are many neuropathy treatments that although won’t slow down the progression but can relieve some of the symptoms that the patient is experiencing.

human-body-nerve-structure
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What is peripheral neuropathy?

Peripheral Neuropathy is several conditions that involve damage to the peripheral nervous system responsible for sending signals from the CNS to all the parts of the body, such as the contraction of muscles, movement, digestion, urination, immune system, and other functions. Its treatment depends on the cause. But if the reason is unknown, doctors try to reduce its symptoms by medications.

Disruption of nerve signaling can happen in these conditions, and it can interfere in 3 ways

  1. loss of signal because of the breaking of wire.
  2. an inappropriate stimulus that the brain is transmitting at the wrong time.
  3. distortions of the stimulation and errors in receiving them.

Classifications

Neuropathies are further sub-characterized into three forms: motor, sensory, and autonomic.

Motor Nerves: It controls the movement of muscles like walking, talking, grasping.

Sensory nerves: Controls the information of feelings, temperature, touch, and sense of smell.

Autonomic nerves: Controls the involuntary functions of the body like heartbeat, breathing, digestion.

Most of the peripheral neuropathies are sensory, and diagnosing them early can save many people from lifelong pain.

Symptoms for peripheral neuropathy

Several neuropathies are lengthy, which means that the symptoms start from the longest nerve fiber. The most common symptoms of neuropathy includes tingling, burning sensation in the feet or hands, numbness, and loss of sensation in the arms and legs.

  • Motor neuropathy weakens the muscles causing muscle cramps, twitching, and shrinking of muscle in size.
  • Sensory neuropathy affects the sensory nerves and is the most common neuropathy. You may feel like you are wearing gloves due to the numbing of receptors, vibrations, the unknown firing of the pain receptors; hence causing severe pain. The most common onset of sensory neuropathy is from hands and feet giving it the name of stocking gloves.
  • Autonomic neuropathies disrupt involuntary actions like severe heat intolerance, excessive sweating, uncontrollable heartbeat, breathing, and frequent dizziness.

The peripheral nervous system is important for the health of your hair and skin, therefore, any changes in these areas may indicate neuropathy. Most of these symptoms associates with diabetic neuropathy which is the most commonly diagnosed neuropathy.

Causes of neuropathy

The most common causes is Diabetes. People who are diabetic (mostly type 2) are highly likely to develop diabetic neuropathy; hence accounting for 60-70% of the cases. This happens because of the medications they take that causes stress and inflammation to the body – burning, numbness, and tingling in the hands and legs.

In a study of 4191 people who were over 55, around 734 had peripheral neuropathies, and 44% had diabetes; hence making it the most common cause of Peripheral neuropathy. 75% of them recovered due to early diagnosis.

The second major cause, which accounts for 40% of the cases, is Chemically induced neuropathy, which can be due to the medications that treat HIV/AIDS or chemotherapy to fight cancer. These types of drugs can affect the nerve causing loss of sensations and troubling movements. This neuropathy is not life-threatening, and you can control it by changing the drugs.

Idiopathic neuropathy accounts for 20% of the cases. It occurs in most middle-aged to elderly individuals. This kind of illness has a gradual onset of symptoms and can disrupt your daily routine.

Autoimmune diseases such as Lupus, sjogren syndrome are the source of most autonomic neuropathy.

Nutritional neuropathies can happen due to B12 deficiency which is important in nerve health.

Medications for Neuropathy Treatments and Care

Though neuropathy treatment has not slowed down the progression of disease – it has a mortality rate of 3-5%.

These treatments have benefited the people in several ways like by reducing pain, improving relaxation and circulation, improving sleep quality, through therapies, and avoidance of medication.

Treatments include medications like anti-inflammatory drugs to mask moderate symptoms. Whereas pain relief and painkillers use for severe symptoms.

Anti-seizure medications treats epilepsy or relieve nerve pain. However, these drugs have side effects like drowsiness and dizziness.

Tropical neuropathy treatments include creams and patches that give relief to pain and burning sensations on the skin. But its long-term use may leave the patches on the skin.

Anti-depressants also help in relieving pain by interfering with the chemical processes in the brain and spinal cord that are responsible for feeling pain.

 Therapies

  • TENS (Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation): a therapy that uses low voltage electrical current to relieve pain. It works by placing electrodes on the skin and sending small amounts of electricity into the skin.
  • Plasma exchange intravenous immune globulin: This involves removing the blood and then removing the antibodies and proteins from the removed blood and returning it later. The patient receives high levels of protein which acts as antibodies. This therapy helps people with inflammation and autoimmune peripheral neuropathy.
  • Physical therapy: Therapy includes chiropractic services and casts. These therapies work for muscle weakness.

Chiropractic Services as a Neuropathy treatment

chiropractor
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Chiropractic service helps to alleviate symptoms and heal the damaged nerves leading to neuropathy disorder. Chiropractic treatment can increase the blood flow, give an optimum environment for nerve healing, reduce pain by stimulation of damaged nerves, and that is generated by the brain. Moreover, these treatments can align the body and regulates your overall nervous system.

Many people turn to acupuncture to get relief from their chronic pain. Acupuncture releases your body’s natural painkillers (called the endorphins) that change the way your body responds to pain. This is done by inserting sterilized needles into the pressure points of the nervous system. However, it hasn’t been thoroughly studied like the other medications but so far helps relieve the pain.

Alternative Medications

As acupuncture, these medications also show some signs of betterment.

Alpha-lipoic acid improves symptoms that occur due to nerve pain and relieves symptoms like burning pain, tingling, and numbness in Diabetic Peripheral neuropathy patients. Its side effects include skin rash, upset stomach, and also increase blood sugar levels. You may have to ask your doctor before taking it.

Herbs have anti-inflammatory properties. They help in reducing pain and burning caused due to the disease. Herbs like primrose oil can help too.

Final Words

These above treatments have shown a significant amount of success in neuropathy disease. 70% of the patients recover ––15% of them have no residual symptoms left even though they had prolonged disease time. Only 10-12% of them have disabling weakness but may recover over time.

Most of the neuropathy cases are preventable; keep your blood sugar levels normal for preventing diabetes-related neuropathy.

Thank you for reading!

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