The neuropathy may be acquired or hereditary. Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease is the most common hereditary neuropathy and causes weakness in the foot and lower-leg muscles.
- Acquired neuropathies can be due to multiple causes. Acquired neuropathy is the most common neuropathy seen in the patients.
Causes of acquired peripheral neuropathy include:
- Physical injury or compression of the spine
- Autoimmune disease (the body attacks its own cells)
- Narrowing of arteries
- Hormonal imbalances
- Kidney and liver disorders
- Nutritional and vitamin deficiency
- Certain cancers
- Benign (noncancerous) tumor
- Infections, such as Lyme disease, shingles, or AIDS
- Vitamin deficiency (B12 and folic acid)
What is neuropathy?
Neuropathy is the damage or dysfunction of the nerves. Nerves are the fibers that transmit sensations to the brain or spinal cord. Any nerve damage results in tingling, weakness of the muscle it is connected to, and numbness and pain in the affected area.
There are different types of neuropathy based on the number of nerves affected, which include:
- Mononeuropathy: Only one nerve is affected.
- Multifocal neuropathy: A combination of nerves in a limited area is affected.
- Polyneuropathy: Multiple nerves throughout the bodies are affected.
Who gets neuropathy?
Neuropathy affects approximately 25% to 30% of Americans. People of all ages are affected by neuropathy; however, elderly people are at increased risk. Factors associated with increased chances of neuropathy are:
What are the symptoms of neuropathy?
The symptoms of neuropathy mostly depend on causes. The most common symptoms of neuropathy include:
- Sharp, throbbing, stabbing, or electric-like pain
- Tingling or numbness
- Itching sensation
- Loss of coordination, falling
- Muscle weakness
- Muscle twitching
- Low blood pressure
- Sweating too much
- Problems with bladder, digestion, and bowels
- Sexual problems
- Weight loss
- Inability to feel pain, touch, pressure, or temperature
How is neuropathy diagnosed?
The physician takes the history of the patient and conducts a thorough physical examination. Along with this, the physician also performs:
- Neurologic examination to check your reflexes, coordination, and balance
- Blood tests to reveal vitamin and electrolyte deficiency
- MRI to detect tumors and nerve compression
- EMG and NCV (Electrodiagnostic assessment to find the location and degree of nerve damage)
- Nerve, muscle, or skin biopsy to confirm the condition
- QSART test to measure the body’s ability to sweat
How is neuropathy treated?
The management of neuropathy involves treating the underlying conditions. Hence, it is necessary to first diagnose the cause.
Medications used for treating neuropathy include:
- Antidepressants, such as duloxetine or nortriptyline
- Anti Seizure medicines, such as Neurontin (gabapentin) and Lyrica (pregabalin)
- Topical skin patches containing lidocaine
Other therapies include:
- Physical therapy involves a combination of exercise and massage
- Occupational therapy
- Surgery to remove tumors or relieve nerve compression
- Mechanical aids, such as braces, casts, splints, and specially designed shoes
- Adopting a healthier diet
- Lifestyle changes that include limiting alcohol intake and quitting smoking
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