31 Mar What Is Peripheral Neuropathy?
About Peripheral Neuropathy?
Peripheral neuropathy (PN) is an irreversible, chronic condition that often accompanies other diseases. The words peripheral neuropathy literally mean “dead nerves.” This condition causes a loss of feeling in the fingers and toes.
More than 3 million people are diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy every year. If you have PN, it’s important to get regular podiatric checkups to monitor the progression and manage your symptoms.
What Causes It?
Your peripheral nerves are part of your central nervous system.
The peripheral nervous system transmits information from your brain and spinal cord to the rest of your body. At the same time, the nerves on the ends of your fingers and toes send sensory information back to your brain and spinal cord. Under normal circumstances, this loop continues in a regular pattern.
Sometimes, outside factors disrupt the cycle. This often happens after some type of trauma, infection, exposure to toxins or certain illnesses. Many people with diabetes experience PN as a symptom. Alcohol abuse, smoking and vitamin deficiency can also cause the condition.
Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy in the Feet
How do you know if you have PN? If you experience these symptoms, consult a foot care professional:
- Throbbing leg pain that gets worse at night.
- Sharp, jabbing pain in the fingers and toes.
- Extreme sensitivity to touch.
- Loss of coordination.
- Muscle cramping or twitching.
- Excessive sweating.
- High blood pressure or elevated pulse.
- Wounds on feet that don’t heal.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Peripheral Neuropathy
Your doctor can examine your feet to determine if these symptoms point to peripheral neuropathy. A podiatrist will conduct a neurological test, lab test and possibly a biopsy.
If you have persistent symptoms of peripheral neuropathy, it’s important to begin treatment as soon as possible.
Is There a Cure for Peripheral Neuropathy?
If the PN is caused by an underlying condition, the symptoms will diminish as soon as you treat the condition. If it’s related to a chronic illness like diabetes, however, the PN symptoms will remain.
There is no cure for PN, but people can learn to manage the symptoms so it doesn’t interfere with their lives.
How Can You Live with Chronic Peripheral Neuropathy?
The best way to live with PN is to get regular medical checkups. Home care routines and assistive devices can also help.
The following routines can help reduce the pain associated with PN.
- Protect your feet. Wear soft, thick socks and shoes with sturdy heels.
- Check your feet daily. Watch for cuts and bruises that don’t seem to heal.
- Eat a healthy diet. Many people with PN have deficiencies of vitamin B and other nutrients.
- Get regular exercise. Walking, yoga and stretching are particularly helpful.
- Reduce your alcohol intake. Alcohol use can exacerbate the symptoms.
- Stop smoking. Tobacco use can worsen PN.
Many people with PN use assistive devices that help them use their hands and feet. You might find some or all of the following useful.
- Shower items: Shower thermometer and shower chair.
- Specialty socks: Compression stockings and warming socks.
- Helpful gadgets: Hand grips, jar openers and zipper pulls.
- Special footwear: Custom orthotics, professional inserts and orthopedic shoes.
- Walking devices: Walkers, canes and foot braces.
Conditions Related To Peripheral Neuropathy
The following nerve diseases are related to PN and have similar symptoms.
Guillain-Barre syndrome: This is a rare auto-immune disease. There are only about 20,000 diagnosed cases a year. In this condition, your immune system attacks your nerve endings.
Pins and needles: The tingling sensation on your fingers or toes is a mild form of neuropathy.
Diabetic peripheral neuropathy: People with diabetes frequently develop neuropathy in their feet. Persistently high or uncontrolled blood sugar can cause the neuropathy to worsen. Peripheral neuropathy is the main reason people with diabetes lose their feet or legs to amputation. When injuries to the feet or legs are slow to heal, gangrene develops, and the only remedy is amputation.
Get the Diagnosis and Treatment You Need
If you have peripheral neuropathy, it’s important to start treatment as early as possible. At Shuman Podiatry, we have the latest diagnostic techniques and treatment plans for all foot conditions. We’ll help you manage the symptoms so peripheral neuropathy doesn’t slow you down.