Neuropathy is a condition caused by damage to the nerves on the outside of the brain and spinal cord, which can cause pain and weakness in the hands, feet, and other parts of the body. 

This condition, also known as peripheral neuropathy , is characterized by affecting the normal function of the nerves, causing them to send pain signals at inappropriate times. Therefore, thanks to neuropathy, you could feel pain when you are not really experiencing it, and not feel pain when something or someone hurts you.

The peripheral nervous system connects the nerves in your spinal cord and brain to the rest of your body, including your:

  • Arms
  • Hands
  • Feet
  • Legs
  • Internal organs
  • Mouth
  • Expensive

Your nervous system sends signals to your brain, telling you when danger or pain is imminent. Usually, a disturbance of the nervous system occurs due to:

  • A wound
  • Infection
  • An inherited disorder
  • Systemic disease

While damage to the nervous system causes discomfort, the good news is that it is very treatable. Your doctor will ask you questions about your health, such as previous injuries or infections, to determine the best course of treatment. If you have a serious underlying condition, this is definitely something you should tell your doctor , as it could explain the cause of the nerve damage.

The different types of neuropathy

First of all, you need to know that you have three different types of peripheral nerves in your body: sensory nerves, which send signals to your skin, motor nerves, which connect to muscles, and autonomic nerves, which send messages to your internal organs. . 

Neuropathy can affect just one group of nerves or all three, and each type will have different symptoms and treatment schedules. In all, science identifies more than a hundred different types of peripheral neuropathy.

These are classified by the type of nerve damage involved; Mononeuropathy occurs when there is damage to a single nerve, and polyneuropathies occur when multiple nerves are affected.

Common symptoms of neuropathy

  • Tingling sensation most commonly felt in the hands or feet
  • A feeling of compression around the hands or feet
  • Sharp, stabbing pains
  • Numbness in the extremities
  • Feeling of weakness or heaviness in the hands or feet
  • You feel like your arms or legs are getting locked
  • Dropping things often
  • Thinning of the skin
  • Low blood pressure
  • Erectile dysfunction in men
  • Constipation
  • Digestive problems
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive sweating

Having these symptoms doesn’t necessarily indicate nerve damage, but be sure to tell your doctor about them so they can make an accurate evaluation.

These are the top 5 causes of neuropathy:

While having a family history of nerve damage disorders increases the likelihood of developing them, there are also other factors that can contribute to this condition. Next, we will go over some of the main causes of neuropathy.

1. Generalized diseases

Diseases such as diabetes are known to increase the likelihood of developing nerve damage, as high blood glucose levels and high triglycerides can upset the nervous system. The development of neuropathy increases dramatically in people who:

  • Have diabetes
  • Are overweight or obese
  • Have high blood pressure
  • They are over 40 years old

According to statistics provided by the University of Chicago Center for Peripheral Neuropathy (UCCPN), about 60% of people with diabetes suffer from some type of nerve damage . This damage most often occurs due to high blood sugar levels, although having high levels of fat in the blood can also contribute.

Nerve damage can also occur as a result of the following chronic diseases:

  • Kidney disorders that cause toxins to build up in the body
  • Hypothyroidism, which can lead to fluid retention and pressure around the nerves
  • Chronic inflammation can spread to the nerves and cause damage to connective tissues.
  • Vitamin B and E deficiencies specifically, which help with proper nerve function

2. Injuries

Commonly, nerve damage occurs due to some type of physical damage. This can include car accidents, bone fractures, concussions, or falls. Sedentary lifestyles can also cause nerve damage from sitting in one position for a long time. 

Working for long hours at the computer can also lead to nerve damage due to leaving your wrist in one place most of the time. This condition, called carpal tunnel syndrome, affects more than 3 million Americans each year and is a common type of neuropathy.

3. Alcohol and other toxins

Over time, alcohol can damage nerves due to high levels of toxicity in the body. Other toxins that can cause nerve problems include glue, pesticides, and solvents with high levels of exposure. Working in heavy metal environments without taking proper precautions can also cause nerve problems.

4. Infections and autoimmune disorders

Some viruses and bacteria specifically target the nervous system, such as herpes simplex, the varicella-zoster virus, responsible for chickenpox and shingles, and the Epstein-Barr virus, which damages sensory nerves and causes pain. stinging. 

Bacterial infections like Lyme disease can also cause nerve damage and discomfort if left untreated. People who have HIV or AIDS can also experience peripheral neuropathy.

Also, autoimmune disorders like arthritis and lupus can affect the nerves due to chronic inflammation and tissue damage throughout the body . Pressure from swelling can also cause pain in the nerves in the legs and arms.

5. Medications

Certain medications, such as those listed below, can also cause nerve damage in some cases:

  • Anticonvulsants that are taken to treat seizures
  • Medicines to fight bacterial infections
  • Some blood pressure medications
  • Anticancer drugs

Diagnose nervous disorders

To diagnose these types of conditions, your doctor will first do a physical exam and learn about your medical history. If this does not help them determine the problem, they will perform other tests such as:

  • Blood tests that indicate blood sugar levels and help determine if you may have a thyroid disorder.
  • Your doctor may also want to do a CT scan or MRI to see if something is pressing on your nerves, such as a tumor.
  • A nerve biopsy, in which you will undergo minor surgery so the doctor can remove a small portion of your nerves for inspection under a microscope.
  • An electromyogram, which involves the doctor inserting a small needle into the muscle and asking you to move it gently, which may show problems with the way nerve signals move to the muscles. The needle will confirm the amount of electricity that runs through your fabric. While it may seem painful, this procedure only causes mild pain for a few days.
  • Lastly, your doctor may also want to perform a nerve conduction study, which involves placing electrodes on the skin, which pulse small amounts of electricity through the nerves. This will show if your nerves are transmitting signals correctly.

Natural ways to treat neuropathy

The cause of the neuropathy will determine your course of treatment . For example, if diabetes is the cause in this case, you will probably need medication or lifestyle changes to control spikes in blood sugar. 

If it is a vitamin deficiency, then you will need to supplement with vitamins or start eating more vitamin-rich foods. Sometimes a combination of medications and lifestyle changes is necessary.

However, since we will be looking at natural treatments in this article, we will skip the recommended medications that are often prescribed for neuropathy.

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) may not work for everyone, but this method does not involve the use of medications and is relatively painless. In TENS treatment, your doctor will place electrodes on your skin, which will send small amounts of electricity to the body. The goal of this therapy is to prevent the nerves from sending pain signals to the brain.

Ergonomic casts or splints

Your doctor may recommend this type of cast or splint if your nerve problem occurs in your feet, legs, arms, or hands. These casts provide support for the area of ​​the body where you experience pain or discomfort, for example in the wrists if you have carpal tunnel syndrome. 

Many people who work at the computer for long hours wear a brace while they sleep, which keeps their wrists in the correct position.

Home treatments

Natural remedies such as the following can significantly help relieve pain associated with nerve problems:

  • Chiropractic care
  • Acupuncture
  • Massages
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Regular exercise
  • Refrain from consuming alcohol and smoking

Prevent and reduce the risks of developing this condition

While family predisposition can increase your risk of developing neuropathy, you can still take precautions by:

  • Avoid alcohol or drink it only in moderation
  • Stop smoking if you’ve already started
  • Have a balanced diet
  • Exercise regularly
  • Manage stress

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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