FAQs of Peripheral Neuropathy
Peripheral Neuropathy Treatment Denver
What is Peripheral Neuropathy?
Peripheral neuropathy occurs as a result of nerve damage, which often leads to numbness in the feet and hands. People suffering from peripheral neuropathy describe the sensation as a painful burning or tingling. Many also experience loss of sensation best described as having a thin sock wrapped around the hand or foot.
Peripheral neuropathy has many causes including injuries, infections and exposure to chemicals, but the most common cause of peripheral neuropathy is diabetes. Because peripheral neuropathy is often a result of another condition, the symptoms can be mitigated by treating the underlying condition.
What are the Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy?
The peripheral nervous system is responsible for sending information to and from the brain and spine to other parts of the body. Symptoms may include the following characteristics:
- Heightened sensitivity to pain and touch
- Nerves that control muscle movement
- Nerves that control blood pressure, heart rate, and digestion (autonomic nerves)
It is typical for peripheral neuropathy to begin in the longest nerves that extend all the way down to the toes. Symptoms vary according to which nerves are affected and gradually become worse over time if the underlying condition is not treated. Symptoms may include:
- Onset of numbing feeling in the feet and/or hands
- Numbness in the legs and arms
- Painful burning sensation
- Jabbing type of pain
- Hypersensitivity to touch and/or light
- Loss of coordination
- Paralysis or weakness in the muscles (motor nerves)
- Bladder and bowel issues (autonomic nerves)
When Should I see a Denver Pain Management Doctor?
It is critical to see a Denver pain clinic doctor right away especially if symptoms as described above begin to set in. The earlier the diagnosis, the better the chances are the pain can be minimized and potentially eliminated. Early diagnosis and treatment will also prevent possible permanent damage to nerves.
What Causes Peripheral Neuropathy?
Diagnosing peripheral neuropathy can be difficult due to the number of risk factors that can lead to neuropathies. Risk factors include:
- Excessive alcohol: It is common for individuals who abuse alcohol to develop peripheral neuropathy due to poor dietary choices, vitamin deficiencies and the effects of alcohol on the body’s systems.
- Autoimmune diseases: diseases including lupus, arthritis and Guillain-Barre syndrome can lead to peripheral neuropathy.
- Diabetes: approximately 50% of people suffering from diabetes experience some nerve damage caused by a neuropathy.
- Exposure to harmful toxins: metals and some chemotherapy drugs have been known to increase risk of developing peripheral neuropathy
- Infection: specific infections such as Lyme disease, hepatitis C, shingles and HIV/AIDS can lead to neuropathy.
- Injury: motor vehicle accidents, sports injuries and the like can cause damage to peripheral nerves.
- Tumor: both malignant and benign tumors that grow on nerves can cause damage by increasing pressure on surrounding nerves.
What are Possible Complications of Peripheral Neuropathy?
Two main complications include inability or reduced ability to feel and increased risk of infection. The inability to perceive hot, cold and/or touch makes one susceptible to skin injuries such as burns. Individuals with diabetes need to make sure to treat even minor injuries before they become infected because it takes them longer to heal.
How is Peripheral Neuropathy Diagnosed?
Peripheral neuropathy is really a symptom of many potential causes. Because of this, it can be difficult to accurately diagnose. Diagnostic tests and methods typically include:
- Medical history: your healthcare provider will need information about symptoms, lifestyle, habits, family medical history and personal medical history.
- Neurological examination: this exam includes testing reflexes, muscle tone, strength, coordination and ability to feel physical sensations.
- Blood test: blood tests can identify vitamin and nutrient deficiencies, blood sugar, and organ function.
- Diagnostic imaging: x-rays, CT scans, and MRIs can identify tumors, disk problems and other health abnormalities.
- Nerve testing: these tests can identify if the cause of weakness is associated with muscular damage or nerve damage (Richardson et al., Journal of Clinical Oncology, 2006).
How is Peripheral Neuropathy Treated?
Treatment of peripheral neuropathy includes treating the root cause as well as painful symptoms. If the root cause is treated, the pain caused by peripheral neuropathy will usually go away. To treat painful symptoms, a variety of medications are used:
- Pain relievers: for mild to moderate pain, over the counter and commonly prescribed pain medications are used. These include NSAIDs, codeine, and hydrocodone.
- Seizure medication: prescription drugs originally used to stop seizures have been found to be effective at minimizing nerve pain.
- Antidepressants: certain antidepressant medications including Aventyl and Cymbalta can significantly reduce pain (Tuchman, et al., Dallas Diabetes & Endo Research Center, 2004).
- Spinal Cord Stimulator: new research has shown that SCS implants can relieve pain substantially from neuropathy and decrease the need for narcotic medications. In addition, the most recent research shows SCS implants can restore the ability to feel one’s feet in over 75% of patients!
Chronic pain associated with this condition can be treated with conservative physical therapy treatments that provide pain relief. Both active physical therapy and passive can be beneficial for the patient. Passive therapy may consist of the application of heat packs that are placed on the affected areas. Active therapy means that the patient is involved in the program and follows instructions to exercise and strength train (lightly) at home and at the pain clinic. Exercise is extremely beneficial to slowing the progression of this condition.
If you or a loved on is suffering with peripheral neuropathy (diabetic or otherwise), let Colorado Pain help you with the best pain management Denver has to offer. Simply fill out the form or call us at (720) 306-9575 today!