Peripheral Neuropathy Explained

Peripheral Neuropathy Explained

You’ve developed numbness or tingling in your hand, or perhaps your feet and/or lower legs are in pain and there’s no obvious explanation for the discomfort. In most cases, these symptoms are caused by damage to the peripheral nerves, or peripheral neuropathy.

To help you better understand peripheral neuropathy, Dr. Sachida Manocha of Interventional Pain Center wants to take a closer look at this common problem in this month’s blog post.

Understanding your nervous system

The human nervous system is vast and complex and controls everything from your sensory information to automatic functions, such as your heart rate. To make it easier, we can split this system into different sections:

Central nervous system

Acting as a command base for your entire nervous system is your central nervous system, which includes your brain and spinal cord.

Autonomic nerves

These nerves travel from your spinal cord and control involuntary functions, such as breathing, heart rate, digestion, and urination.

Cranial nerves

These nerves travel directly from your brain to other areas of your head. For example, they can travel from your brain to your eyes, mouth, and ears. 

Peripheral nerves

Your peripheral nerves are those that reach into your arms and hands, down into your legs and feet, and anywhere else outside of your central nervous system.

When we discuss peripheral neuropathy, we’re referring to nerve damage in your peripheral nervous system, which are the nerves that exist outside of your central nervous system. 

Causes of peripheral neuropathy

There are many ways in which nerves in your peripheral system can become damaged. In fact, there are too many to list here. For the purposes of this discussion, we’re going to highlight some of the more common ways, which include:

Of this list, it’s worth highlighting diabetic neuropathy. About 1 in 10 adults in the United States have diabetes, and 1 in 3 have prediabetes. Of the many complications that stem from diabetes, neuropathy is among the most common and affects up to half of people with the condition. The primary reason why diabetes leads to nerve damage is due to elevated levels of glucose in the blood, which can damage peripheral nerves.

While the peripheral neuropathy related to diabetes is quite serious, there are other, milder, forms of the problem, as is the case with carpal tunnel syndrome. With this condition, the median nerve that travels through your wrist is compressed, which can lead to numbness, tingling, and pain in your hand and fingers.

Treating peripheral neuropathy

Since there are many ways in which peripheral neuropathy can develop, treatments vary. For example, controlling blood sugar levels is paramount for people with diabetic neuropathy. Or, clearing up an infection or resolving a vitamin deficiency may help improve nerve health in others.

In other words, we need to identify the root cause of your peripheral neuropathy before making a treatment recommendation. Rest assured, however, that there are many solutions for peripheral neuropathy that can help relieve your symptoms.

Patients who have failed neuromodulators - like gabapentin and pregabalin - and nerve tonics like the B- group vitamins and alpha lipoic acid, and continue to have severe pain that may require opioids, are excellent candidates for the high frequency stimulation device, which gives as much as a 82% success rate. Failures with the stimulator though not many, can be treated with intrathecal pain pump.

If you suspect that you might have developed peripheral neuropathy, your first step is to book an appointment online or over the phone with Interventional Pain Center. We have offices in Worthington and Newark, Ohio.

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