What is meant by peripheral nerve damage?
Peripheral nerve damage is commonly known as peripheral neuropathy. When a nerve or a group of nerves of the peripheral nervous system are damaged or compressed due to certain factors, they send corrupted signals to the brain and the spinal cord. This distortion usually causes peripheral neuropathy symptoms such as sharp jabbing pain, burning, tingling and numbness in the hands and feet.
All the nerves lining our body make up the peripheral nervous system except the brain and the spinal cord which are classified as the central nervous system. When there is peripheral nerve damage, the nerves will send pain signals to the brain even in the absence of a pain stimulus. This results in diminished life activities and sometimes even immobility if the pain is unbearable.
Though treatments can help to curb the peripheral nerve damage and cause nerve repair, most neuropathy cases can only be treated to an extent where living is just plausible.
Causes of peripheral nerve damage (peripheral neuropathy)
Although peripheral nerve damage can also be asymptomatic (occurrence without any reason), there are some known causes of peripheral neuropathy.
• Alcoholism: Excessive alcohol intake or over smoking can lead to peripheral neuropathy. These destructive addictions cause health problems and rob the nerves of the essential nutrients, thus causing them severe damage.
• Diabetes: The majority of the neuropathy cases in the U.S.A are arisen from diabetes. When a diabetic patient fails to keep his blood sugar levels under reasonable check, the elevated glucose in the blood exerts a fatal pressure on the nerves and causes them temporary damage. This damage is referred to as diabetic neuropathy. If it is treated at its earliest stage, nerve repair can be expected. But if the diabetic patient fails to practice caution with his blood sugar levels, the damage can become irreversible.
• Trauma or unprecedented pressure on the nerves: Repetitive motions such as typing, assembly line work etc can exert a forceful amount of pressure on the delicate nerve fibers and cause peripheral nerve damage. Unprecedented trauma can also result when the person has been in a critical accident and has received serious foot, hand or head injury.
• Vitamin B deficiency: Vitamin B1, B6 and B12 are essential vitamins required for nerve growth and maintenance. These vitamins are also responsible for causing nerve repair. If the body is deprived of these much needed nerve food, peripheral nerve damage can take place.
• Exposure to toxins: Poisonous toxins such as metals, lead, toxic substances, chemotherapy and radiation therapy all can cause peripheral neuropathy.
• Infectious diseases: Certain bacterial infections are known to cause peripheral nerve damage. These include HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, lyme disease and shingles.
• Heredity: Heredity plays a major role in the life of a person. If peripheral neuropathy runs in your family, you are most likely to get Charcot-Marie Tooth at a very tender age.
• Age factor: People who have crossed the age of 55-60 are at a much higher chance of developing peripheral nerve damage than people in their mid-twenties.
What are the symptoms of peripheral nerve damage?
If you wish to consult your doctor and start your treatments immediately, you need to identify certain symptoms of neuropathy before you embark on your journey to the hospital. Symptoms will vary from patient to patient and will also be dependent on the type of nerve damaged.
• Tingling and burning sensation in the arms and feet: These are the beginning signs of neuropathic pain. If uncommon tingling and burning is experienced in the arms, feet and toes, neuropathy can be expected.
• Pain and loss of sensation: Intense pain may be experienced on the back of the toes and feet. Peripheral nerve damage also disables a person’s basic response to sensations like reaction to cold and hot, sharp and soft things. Numbness may be experienced around certain body parts. A neuropathic patient will not be able to tell the difference between cold and hot water or feel a blister or a wound upon its occurrence.
• Motor skills may be affected: if peripheral nerve damage has occurred in the motor nerves (nerves which control our muscle movements), simple actions like tying your shoelace, using scissors, buttoning your shirt etc may be difficult to perform. Weakness and dizziness may also be experienced.
• Autonomic nerve actions can be jilted: If peripheral nerve damage has occurred in the autonomic nerves (nerves which control a body’s involuntary functions such as digestion, blood pressure, heart rate, perspiration etc), diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, constipation, high blood pressure etc may be experienced.
• Depression: A neuropathic patient will suffer bouts of stress and depression without any particular reason.
• Trouble sleeping due to intense pain and increased sensitivity
Consulting a doctor:
If any of the above symptoms are experienced, it is best to consult a doctor and start treatments immediately. The quicker the condition is treated, the better the chances of neuropathy pain kept in check and the lesser the peripheral nerve damage will occur. Your doctor will make a thorough examination of your hands and feet and will determine the causes and the extent of peripheral nerve damage.