If you or someone you care for has been diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy it is undoubtedly a troubling time. You may know little about the condition or its causes and the various treatments that are available to people with neuropathy. This site has been created to give you as much information as possible about the condition and to help you gain a deeper understanding of it. While peripheral neuropathy is a serious there is help available to you whether you are a sufferer or care for someone who is.
What is Peripheral Neuropathy?
It is a collection of disorders that causes damage to the peripheral nervous system. The peripheral nervous system is classified as the nerve network outside of the brain and spinal cord. It is the body’s network of cells and fibres that are responsible for transmitting orders and information around the body. There are 100’s of different classified types of neuropathy although they are commonly placed into 4 classifications:
Mononeuropathy is diagnosed when the condition just affects one nerve or nerve bunch. Frequently caused by an injury, trauma or infection to the nerve it is the most commonly diagnosed form of neuropathy. CTS (carpal tunnel syndrome) is a common cause of mononeuropathy resulting from compression or damage to nerves in the wrist.
When two or more nerve groups within the peripheral nervous system are damaged Mononeuritis Multiplex is the diagnosis. It can cause damage to both sensory and motor nerves and can spread throughout the entire peripheral nervous system.
Occurs when many nerves within the peripheral nervous system begin to malfunction. Symptoms of Polyneuropathy are often experienced symmetrically on the body e.g. both hands and both feet and can develop suddenly or over a longer time period.
Autonomic neuropathy or Dysautonomia describes a wide range of disorders that affect the autonomic nervous system. It can affect a range of automatic functions within the body including the digestive, respiratory and cardio-vascular systems as well as bladder control.
Causes of Peripheral Neuropathy
There are a number of common causes for peripheral neuropathy. Often it is the result of an underlying condition such as diabetes with around 60% of sufferers going on to develop the condition. It can also be the result of bacterial or viral infection and a consequence of injury or trauma to the body. Various systemic illnesses such as cancer can result in different forms of neuropathy and in a small number of people it is an inherited genetic condition.
There are a wide range of symptoms that may be experienced depending on the type of neuropathy treatment and the area of the body which it affects. Motor, sensory and autonomic nerves can all be damaged producing a range of different symptoms. When autonomic nerves are damaged symptoms can include loss of coordination, sickness, dysphagia, low blood pressure, constipation and erectile dysfunction.
When sensory and motor nerves are damaged the symptoms produced will depend on the type of nerves that have been affected and their location in the body. Large sensory nerves are responsible for touch and feeling while short nerves convey messages regarding pain and temperature to the brain. Symptoms can include but are not limited to constant pins and needles, numbness, burning sensation, loss of coordination, fatigue and over sensitisation of nerves.
Peripheral neuropathy is a serious condition and one that should not be taken lightly. There are a range of treatment options available to sufferers depending on the type of neuropathy and its severity. Treatments include surgery, treatment of underlying conditions and in some cases mechanical aids. Pain caused by neuropathic pain needs special attention as it conventional forms of painkillers often have little or no effect.