Peripheral Neuropathy

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.

There are two types of symptoms with PN: negative and positive. Negative symptoms appear first, and are typically when damage to the nervous system causes the loss of a particular function. For example, a negative symptom could be a loss of reflexes, loss of strength, or loss of particular sensations like numbness. However, these symptoms are rarely detectable to the patient, because the brain makes up the difference in the losses.  Only after some time do the sick and damaged nerves develop the positive symptoms of neuropathy, which are tingling, burning, biting, stabbing, shooting pains. This too is a reaction of the brain and the nervous system, and unfortunately this reaction can be miserable for patients.

Each patient has their own individual definition of pain. This variation in pain can easily confuse a doctor not trained in the recognition and treatment of PN. Due to the lack of knowledge, the patient usually continues to suffer with no real answers. These patients can end up going from doctor to doctor, and stronger doses of pills, until they are lost in their own world of suffering.

Some cases of Neuropathy come on suddenly, while others develop over many years.  Some people’s sole symptom is a weakness in the arms and legs, which can lead to difficulty standing, walking, or getting out of a chair. The loss of sensation in patients’ feet, ankles, and toes can contribute to a lack of spatial understanding, which in turn causes them to fall very easily. These under-recognized sensory losses can only be detected with proper clinical exam. This office has the necessary tools to uncover the underlying cause of this ‘silent’ nerve damage.

Some patients will lose the ability to walk completely. Others start with a tingling, pin pricking feeling in their feet that turns into deep and sharp stabbing pains and burning electric shocks. These debilitating problems can also increase in intensity at night while trying to get to sleep, because the pain is insatiable. In fact, once the pain has started, it only gets worse. 

Currently, ordinary medicine has no cure for PN. The extremely powerful drugs dispensed to patients do not treat the nerve damage, they numb the brain to numb the pain. Most patients can not tolerate a drugged existence but feel that there is no other  viable option against this horrifying pain.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF PERIPHERAL NEUROPATHY

  • Numbness
  • A burning pain or sensation
  • Cramping
  • Experiencing sharp, electrical pain
  • Prickling or tingling
  • Balance problems or falls
  • Severe foot pain
Neck Pain

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