Peripheral Neuropathy: Symptoms and Causes

Neuropathy, often called peripheral neuropathy, is the damage or dysfunction to one or more nerves located outside the brain and spinal cord. The common cause of Red Hook neuropathy is diabetes, but this condition can also result from metabolic problems, infections, traumatic injuries, exposure to toxins, and inherited causes. When your peripheral nerves are damaged, you may experience pain, numbness, and weakness in your hands and feet, but other body parts can be affected too. Most patients with peripheral neuropathy describe the pain as a stabbing, tingling, or burning sensation.

Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy

The peripheral system comprises different nerves, including motor, sensory, and autonomic nerves; each has an essential role in maintaining body functions. Therefore, the symptoms you experience depend on the type of nerve affected.

  • Sensory nerves transmit or carry sensations such as smell, touch, taste, hearing, and sight to your brain. For example, sensory nerves communicate information about texture, temperature, or an object you hold in your hand to your brain.
  • Motor nerves control muscle movement; they carry messages from your brain to your muscles and move in the opposite direction of sensory nerves. They dictate movement because they tell your muscles how and when to contract. For example, how to move your arm away from something hot.
  • Autonomic nerves control body functions that you do not have direct control over, such as digestion, blood pressure, breathing, sweating, bladder control, heart rate, and sexual arousal. These nerves respond to external stresses; for example, when you exercise, the autonomic nerves trigger sweating to prevent high body temperature. Damage to the autonomic nerves may cause signs and symptoms such as heat intolerance, drops in blood pressure, excessive sweating or no sweating at all, and bladder, bowel, or digestive problems.

Depending on the affected nerves, you may have signs and symptoms such as:

  • Numbness, prickling, and tingling in your hands or feet can radiate to your arms or legs.
  • Extreme sensitivity to touch such that activities that should be painful would cause pain. For example, the weight of the blanket on your feet may cause pain.
  • Paralysis if motor nerves are damaged.
  • Muscle weakness
  • Lack of coordination

What causes peripheral neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathy can result from different conditions and events that impact your health. Some of the health problems that cause neuropathy include:

  • Diabetes. Diabetes is the most common cause of peripheral neuropathy; more than half of patients with diabetes will develop some form of neuropathy.
  • Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, chronic inflammatory demyelination, and Guillain-Barre can cause damage to the peripheral nerves.
  • Infections. These include bacterial or viral infections like shingles, hepatitis B and C HIV, and Lyme disease.
  • Bone marrow disorders such as abnormal protein in the blood and lymphoma can also cause neuropathy.

Neuropathy can also be due to other causes such as:

  • Exposure to toxic substances such as industrial chemicals and metals like mercury and lead.
  • Medications like those used to treat cancer can cause peripheral neuropathy
  • Nerve pressure from crutches or repetitive motions like typing can cause peripheral neuropathy. The peripheral nerves can also get damaged due to sports injuries or motor vehicle accidents

Consult your doctor at Hudson Valley Foot Associates to know about treatment options for neuropathy.