Neuropathy, sometimes called peripheral neuropathy, is a condition in which one or more nerves are damaged, causing tingling, numbness, or weakness in the affected area. There are hundreds of kinds of neuropathies, affecting an area, a single nerve, or a type of nerve, so the symptoms experienced and affected areas vary widely. Most neuropathies begin in the hands or feet but can affect any part of the body.
Neuropathy can have some serious impacts, in the worst cases leading to permanent damage or amputation. It is important to have a physician find and treat the cause of any neuropathies to prevent the condition from worsening.
The symptoms of neuropathy depend on which nerves are damaged. For example, if sensory nerves are damaged, pain may be your primary symptom. But if a motor nerve is damaged, you may experience more muscle twitching. Possible symptoms of neuropathy include:
- Tingling or numbness
- Burning, stabbing, or shock-like pain
- Muscle weakness
- Muscle twitching or spasms
- Difficulty walking
- Loss of coordination
- Loss of sensation in the hands or feet
- Problems with the bladder, digestion, or sexual function
- Unintentional weight loss
- Low blood pressure
Neuropathy can have many causes, which is why it is so important to see a doctor if you suspect you have neuropathy. Neuropathies are very common; it is estimated a quarter of Americans will be affected by neuropathy at some point in their life, with people over 65 years old having the highest risk.
Neuropathy is often a symptom of underlying issues, such as conditions that directly damage or cut off blood flow to nerves. In the United States, the most common cause of neuropathy is diabetes. Potential causes of neuropathy include:
- Traumatic injury, such as damage from an automobile accident or a fall
- Some kinds of medication can cause neuropathy to develop over time
- Chemotherapy or other cancer treatments
- Certain inherited disorders
- Repetitive motions
- Autoimmune disorders (e.g., Guillain-Barré syndrome, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis)
- Certain infections which attack nervous tissue, like chickenpox
- Liver or kidney disorders
- Tumors that directly crowd nerves, especially near the spine
- Vascular disorders
Neuropathy is diagnosed based on symptoms reported to your doctor along with in-office physical and neurological examinations and a detailed patient history, which your doctor will take by asking you questions about your daily habits and prior medical conditions. Additionally, your doctor may order several kinds of tests to determine the cause of neuropathy:
- Blood tests
- Genetic tests
- Tissue biopsies
- Electrodiagnostic assessment, a pair of tests conducted by a specialist to determine the location and extent of the nerve damage
What are the treatment options for neuropathy?
Once neuropathy is diagnosed, treatment begins by identifying and treating the condition that caused the nerve damage. In cases of diabetes-induced neuropathy, the first course of action is to get the patient’s diabetes under control so that no further nerve damage occurs.
After any underlying conditions are treated, a variety of therapies can be applied to cure the neuropathy or manage its symptoms. Which therapies your doctor prescribes depends on the root cause of your neuropathy, your symptoms, and the degree of nerve damage present. Treatment can include any combination of the following:
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Medications for pain control
- Nutritional changes
- Braces or splints
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), a non-invasive treatment where a low-level electric current is delivered through the skin to disrupt pain signals from the damaged nerves
Why Choose NGPG?
NGPG Neuroscience employs a team of board-certified neurologists, neurosurgeons, neurointerventional surgeons, neuropsychiatrists, and other specialists who provide high-quality care and up-to-date treatments through our two outpatient Neurology office locations. We offer imaging and surgical care at Northeast Georgia Medical Center’s state-of-the-art facilities, ensuring our patients’ access to all the services of a leading hospital alongside our excellent outpatient care.
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