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Warning Signs of Neuropathy & What Can Help

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Peripheral neuropathy is damage to the nervous system, specifically the peripheral nervous system—the network of nerves that sends information from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body. Some people inherit the disorder from their parents, while others develop it because of an injury or a health problem like a kidney condition or a hormone imbalance. 

There are various types of neuropathy, all with different symptoms and causes. While this condition can’t be cured, you can take steps to help improve your symptoms and prevent it from worsening.

What Are the Common Types of Neuropathy?

There are over 100 types of peripheral neuropathy, each with its own unique symptoms and outlook. To make it easier to diagnose, they are typically divided into 4 categories.

  • Motor neuropathy damages the nerves that control muscles and movement in the body, such as moving your hands and arms or talking.
  • Sensory neuropathy affects the nerves that control what you feel, such as pain, temperature, or a light touch. 
  • Autonomic nerve neuropathy impact the nerves that control functions you are unaware of, like breathing and your heartbeat. Damage to these nerves can be serious.
  • Combination neuropathies is a mix of 2 or 3 of these neuropathies, such as sensory-motor neuropathy.

One of the most common causes of peripheral neuropathy in the US is type 2 diabetes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that half of all people with diabetes have some nerve damage.

What Are the Symptoms of Neuropathy?

Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy can vary depending on the type and which part of your body is affected. The symptoms may also look like other conditions or medical problems, so it is crucial to always see your healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis. Symptoms can range from tingling or numbness in a certain body part to more serious effects such as burning pain or paralysis, as well as:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Cramps
  • Muscle twitching
  • Loss of muscle and bone
  • Changes in skin, hair, or nails
  • Numbness
  • Loss of sensation or feeling in body parts
  • Loss of balance or other functions as a side effect of the loss of feeling in the legs, arms, or other body parts
  • Emotional disturbances
  • Sleep disruptions
  • Loss of pain or sensation that can put you at risk, such as not feeling an impending heart attack or limb pain
  • Inability to sweat properly, leading to heat intolerance
  • Loss of bladder control, leading to infection or incontinence
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting because of a loss of control over blood pressure
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or incontinence related to nerve damage in the intestines or digestive tract
  • Trouble eating or swallowing
  • Life-threatening symptoms, such as difficulty breathing or irregular heartbeat

How Is Neuropathy Diagnosed?

The symptoms and affected body parts can be so diverse that diagnosing it can be challenging. If you’re experiencing symptoms of peripheral neuropathy and your healthcare provider suspects nerve damage, they’ll conduct a thorough medical history and perform various neurological tests to identify the location and severity of the damage. These may include:

  • Blood tests
  • Spinal fluid tests
  • Muscle strength tests
  • Tests of the ability to detect vibrations

Your healthcare provider might want to conduct further tests, like CT scans, MRI scans, electromyography (EMG), nerve conduction studies, or nerve and skin biopsies, depending on the results of the initial tests. These additional tests will provide a more detailed understanding of your condition.

Can Peripheral Neuropathy Be Cured? 

While most cases of peripheral neuropathy can’t be cured, there are steps you can take to prevent its progression. These strategies vary depending on the underlying cause of your condition:

  • If it’s caused by diabetes, your healthcare provider will usually treat the diabetes itself before addressing your symptoms of neuropathy.
  • Many individuals find relief with over-the-counter pain relievers.
  • Others may need prescription medications for relief.
  • Some individuals find lidocaine injections and patches effective in managing pain.
  • In extreme cases, surgical interventions may be considered to destroy the affected nerves or repair injuries that contribute to neuropathic pain and symptoms.

Can Neuropathy Be Prevented?

Some cases of peripheral neuropathy can be prevented. The best way to do this is to manage underlying health conditions that can increase your risk, such as kidney disease, diabetes, or other chronic conditions. Working with your healthcare team to control your condition is essential to help prevent or delay the onset of peripheral neuropathy.

You can also lessen your risk through lifestyle choices, including:

  • Avoiding alcohol and tobacco
  • Correcting vitamin deficiencies
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Avoiding toxins
  • Exercising regularly

Even if you already have some form of peripheral neuropathy, healthy lifestyle steps can help you feel your best and reduce the pain and symptoms related to the disorder.

Find Support at Fairview Senior Living

At Fairview Senior Living, our team is dedicated to providing compassionate care at all levels of need through offering services that support your health and well-being, including skilled nursing care, medication administration and management, pain management, and balanced, nutritious meals. 

We’d love to hear from you. Please get in touch with us today to see how we can support you or a loved one with peripheral neuropathy.

Written by Fairview Senior Living

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