Peripheral Neuropathy (PN) is the term used to describe disorders of the peripheral nerves. Although 10 to 20 million people in the United States currently suffer from PN, information is still difficult to find. In addition, approximately 50 percent of diabetics will develop the condition. On top of that, many people using statin pills, or ‘cholesterol drugs,’ will be affected by this mysterious and under-recognized malady.
By definition, Neuropathy means “disease or abnormality of the nervous system,” which is not a very helpful or informative explanation. Alternatively, we need to start thinking of neuropathy as any damage to the nervous system. Carpal Tunnel syndrome, Herniated Discs, and Strokes are all insults to different areas of the nervous system, all with their own different symptoms, and all causing damage to the nervous system. Diabetes is a systemic disease that affects all nerves of the body, including the brain, eyes, hands, feet, legs, and the small nerves of the heart and digestive system.
The peripheral nervous system is made up of the nerves that branch out of the spinal cord to all parts of the body. Peripheral nerve cells have three main parts: the cell body, the axons, and the dendrites (nerve/muscle junction). While Neuropathy can affect any part of the nerve, damage to axons is most common. The axon transmits signals between nerve cells, or from nerve cell to muscles. Most axons are surrounded by a substance call myelin, which facilitates signal transmission.