There are approximately 20 million people in the United States that suffer from some variant of peripheral neuropathy. But what is Peripheral Neuropathy? According to the National institute of National Disorders and Stroke or the NIH, “Peripheral Neuropathy is a condition that develops as a result of damage to the peripheral nervous system, the vast communications network that transmits information between the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) and every other part of the body. Neuropathy means nerve disease or damage.” (Peripheral Neuropathy Fact Sheet”, NINDS, Publication date December 2014)
The symptoms of peripheral neuropathy include numbness or tingling in the extremities, the hands and feet, in many cases the fingertips and toes. Areas of the body may become abnormally reactive, leading to a hyper sensitive and intense but distorted experience of touch. In some cases pain may be perceived even without the corresponding stimuli there to initiate it. Severe symptoms according to the NIH are burning pain (especially at night), muscle wasting, paralysis, or organ or gland dysfunction. Damage to nerves that supply internal organs may impair digestion, sweating, sexual function, and urination. In the most extreme cases, breathing may become difficult, or organ failure may occur. (NINDS)
Peripheral Neuropathy distorts the sensory information that travels back and forth through the central nervous system from the brain and spinal cord to the muscles that create the necessary impulses to generate and spur movement. Damage to the peripheral nervous system created havoc with these critical connections. Like a detour positioned at a major intersection, the synapse firing is disrupted through the normal nerve highways, the neuropathy distorts and redirects the messages between the brain, spinal cord and central nervous system.
Peripheral neuropathies exist in a myriad of forms and follow different patterns of nerve disruption. Symptoms may be experienced over a period of days, weeks, or years. They can be acute or chronic in nature. According to the NINDS In acute neuropathies the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system and impairs sending and receiving nerve signals Symptoms appear suddenly, progress rapidly, and resolve slowly as damaged nerves heal. In chronic forms, symptoms begin subtly and progress slowly. Some people may have periods of relief followed by relapse. Others may reach a plateau stage where symptoms stay the same for many months or years. Many chronic neuropathies worsen over time. Although neuropathy may be painful and potentially debilitating, very few forms are fatal. (NINDS)
Treatment for Peripheral Neuropathy does exist, and this can range from topical agents that are compounded like Lyrica, Neurontin or Gabapentin, other pain medications, and various electrical stim therapies. The pain crèmes do mask the pain symptoms of neuropathy but are temporary in their relief as they mostly block the pain receptors from interpreting the pain signals through the central nervous system. However electrical stim therapy has proven to also be effective especially devices that use inferential current or alternating current versus the typical direct current based units.
Join us for our next news article that will uncover the truth about diabetic neuropathy, how it is similar and different from peripheral neuropathy, and what you need to know to treat this condition. Click here.