Neuropathy is a group of conditions related to damage to the peripheral nervous system. It is often associated with an underlying disease or condition and symptoms can be caused by physical injury, systemic illnesses and conditions, viral and bacterial infections and inherited disorders. Neuropathies can produce a wide range of signs and symptoms depending on the type of nerve that has been affected and its location in the body. Sensory, motor and autonomic nerves can all be affected.
Treatment for neuropathies is dependent on the type of neuropathy being experienced. There are over 100 different types of classified neuropathy although they generally fall into four main groups: mononeuropathy, Mononeuritis multiplex, polyneuropathy and autonomic. While there is no treatment currently available for the inherited condition there are a range of treatment options available for other forms.
Surgery is commonly used to treat the symptoms caused by mononeuropathies. Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) and slipped discs which can cause compression of nerves can be treated with surgical intervention. The procedure for CTS is one of the most commonly performed surgical procedures and has a very high success rate.
As neuropathalogical conditions are often caused by a range of underlying illnesses and conditions treatment is often focussed on dealing with these issues first. Diabetic neuropathy can be controlled with insulin and strict monitoring of blood sugar levels. Conditions that affect the immune system can be treated with a variety of drugs. Making a number of lifestyle changes such as reducing alcohol consumption, giving up smoking and following a better diet are also generally advised.
The pain caused by various neuropathy conditions can be debilitating and intense. In extreme cases nerves can become over sensitised and the slightest touch can cause extreme discomfort. Patients are often unable to bear even the slightest touch of material on their skin. Neuropathic pain cannot be treated with the usual variety of pain killers like ibuprofen. There are a number of prescription drugs available which can be obtained from your GP. These include Amitriptyline, Pregabalin and Duloxetine. While these drugs will help with neuropathic pain they have a range of side-effects and may not be suitable for long term use.
Hand and foot braces can be used to compensate for muscle weakness, give support to the joints and ease the compression of nerves. Orthopaedic shoes can help people with a loss of sensation in the feet and help to prevent injury.
People suffering with neuropathic disorders are advised to make a number of lifestyle changes to prevent further nerve damage and encourage nerve repair. The most important one is of course to stop smoking as this restricts the supply of oxygen to the peripheral nervous system. Maintaining a healthy weight and diet, reducing alcohol consumption and exercise are also recommended.