Evaluation Is Key In Treating Peripheral Neuropathy

Health Minute

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Peripheral neuropathy affects 20 million Americans. For some the cause of the disease is unknown, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. The condition causes numbness and tingling in the extremities. In extreme cases, it can limit mobility and ability to breathe.

Peripheral Neuropathy 'Distorts the Messages'

Your brain and spinal cord serve as the mainframe that transmits messages throughout your body via the peripheral nervous system. The peripheral nervous system helps your internal organs function properly and provides important signals regarding its response to the outside environment such as when a person’s feet are hot or their hands are cold.

Trauma, infections, disease, and injury can damage your peripheral nervous system. When this happens, you may notice the sensations you took for granted are distorted or gone.

Peripheral neuropathy distorts the messages that travel from your brain and spinal cord to the outlying parts of your body including hands, feet, and face. The disease is like static on a telephone line, interrupting your nervous system's messages to the various parts of your body.

In most cases, symptoms of peripheral come on gradually. As a result, you may dismiss symptoms until the disorder progresses to a point where you can no longer deny their existence.

Carpal tunnel syndrome, where the median nerve in the wrist is damaged, is one of the better known types of peripheral neuropathy.

Often people with carpal tunnel syndrome initially attribute the loss of sensation in the way they hands simply to their position their hands in certain activities. But eventually they begin to notice that the change in sensation happens more often and becomes more painful.

Evaluating Peripheral Neuropathy

Being evaluated for peripheral neuropathy is important because the symptoms can signal an underlying health issue that needs immediate attention - for instance, diabetes. Up to 70 percent of people with diabetes have the disorder, according to the Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy. In some cases, diabetes may be discovered through a diagnosis of peripheral neuropathy.   

HIV/AIDS patients and those taking certain chemotherapy drugs also experience the disorder. According to the Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy, the disorders affect up to 40 percent of chemotherapy patients and a third of all HIV/AIDs patients.

Peripheral neuropathy is best diagnosed through a clinical exam in which a neurologist will ask you a series of questions about your symptoms. Additional testing can support your physician's diagnosis.

A common test for peripheral neuropathy is electromyography (EMG). An EMG delivers electricity through a small shock to the areas of the body where you are having symptoms. This enables your doctor to determine damage to the nerves in that area. 

Peripheral neuropathy can sometimes be cured when an underlying health issue is brought under control.

In cases that cause pain medication can be prescribed to help alleviate it. 

Heredity can have a role in your having peripheral neuropathy. And the following physical injuries, diseases, disorders, or exposure to toxins can increase your risk:

  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Cancer
  • Endocrine disorders
  • Environmental toxins
  • Heavy alcohol consumption
  • HIV that causes AIDS
  • Industrial toxins
  • Infections
  • Kidney disorders
  • Medication toxicity
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Morton's Neuroma
  • Repetitive physical stress
  • Small vessel disease
  • Sudden injury or trauma

It's easy to get the care you need.

See a Premier Physician Network provider near you.