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What is Peripheral Neuropathy?

The peripheral nervous system transmits signals from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body. Any disruption in the normal functioning of the peripheral nervous system can result in numbness, pain, and weakness in your hands and feet as well as other parts of your body. Peripheral nerves are fragile and easily damaged. A nerve injury can affect your brain's ability to communicate with your muscles and organs. Damage to the peripheral nerves is called peripheral neuropathy.

Causes of Peripheral Neuropathy

Some common causes of peripheral neuropathy include:

  • Diabetes
  • Alcoholism
  • Exposure to toxins
  • Certain medications
  • Inherited disorders
  • Traumatic injuries
  • Infections
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Bone marrow disorders
  • Tumors
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Metabolic problems

Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy

Some of the signs and symptoms of peripheral neuropathy include:

  • Muscle cramping or twitching
  • Difficulty moving arms or walking
  • Abnormal pulse or blood pressure
  • Muscle weakness
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Loss of coordination and balance
  • Numbness, tingling, or prickling sensation in the fingers or toes
  • Burning, freezing, shooting, or throbbing-like pain
  • Unusual sweating

Diagnosis of Peripheral Neuropathy 

Diagnosis of peripheral neuropathy involves the precise pinpointing of nerve damage and its cause, which can be difficult to diagnose. Your doctor will explore your medical and family history for any neurological diseases, and conduct physical and neurological examinations for muscle strength, sensation, posture, and coordination.

Your doctor may order the following:

  • Blood tests for vitamin, sugar and thyroid levels, and liver and kidney function
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan or MRI to detect herniated discs or spinal tumors
  • Nerve function tests using electromyography to measure the electrical activity of the nerves 
  • Nerve biopsy, in which a tiny part of the damaged nerve is removed to test for abnormalities 
  • Lumbar puncture to test cerebrospinal fluid in the lower back for signs of disease

Treatments for Peripheral Neuropathy

Treatment goals would be to manage the underlying condition and relieve symptoms. Some of the commonly employed treatments include:

  • Over-the-counter pain medications for mild pain symptoms
  • Prescription pain medication for severe pain symptoms
  • Topical treatments such as capsaicin cream and lidocaine patches
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) therapy for pain management
  • Intravenous immune globulin and plasma exchange treatment to manage inflammatory conditions by suppressing the immune system
  • Physical therapy to treat muscle weakness and improve movement
  • Surgery to treat neuropathy caused by pressure from a tumor or herniated disc

How is Peripheral Neuropathy Prevented?

Some of the measures employed to prevent peripheral neuropathy include:

  • Regular and moderate exercise to improve muscle strength and overall muscle function
  • Limiting alcohol and tobacco, which are known to aggravate pain and cause nerve damage
  • Consuming a healthy diet
  • Monitoring blood glucose levels  
  • Taking care of your limbs with protective gear during sports
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    500 W Golf Rd
    Suite 101
    Schaumburg, IL 60195
     

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  • CRYSTAL LAKE, ILLINOIS

    360 Station Drive
    Suite 200
    Crystal Lake, IL 60014

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