Peripheral neuropathy is a nerve damaging disorder that targets the peripheral nervous system. The peripheral nervous system connects the intricate web of nerves that run throughout the body to the brain and spinal cord.
It is the system of nerves that control muscle strength, muscle movement, sense of touch and the way the body feels pain and temperature.
Patients can develop peripheral neuropathy as a result of diabetes, traumatic injuries, infections, metabolic problems and exposure to toxins. Individuals with a history of alcoholism, inflammatory diseases and vitamin deficiencies are also at a greater risk of developing this disorder.
This disorder can affect one nerve or multiple nerves at any given time. The symptoms usually start in the fingers and toes and move up the limbs.
The symptoms a patient might experience are:
- Numbness and tingling in the feet or hands
- Burning pain
- Sharp or stabbing pain
- Sensitivity to touch
- Loss of balance
- Muscle weakness or paralysis
Doctors will usually prescribe a combination of medication and therapy to assist the patient with the pain. Medications can include over-the-counter pain relievers, antidepressants and anti-seizure medications.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) therapy is used to assist patients with their symptoms. Adhesive electrodes are placed on the skin and a gentle electric current is delivered through the electrodes at varying frequencies.
When to Seek Medical Attention
If symptoms persist for more than a week or worsen, make an appointment to see a spine and pain specialist. They will help you put together a personalized treatment plan to get you back to feeling better and prevent further nerve damage.
The doctor will do a foot exam, test your muscle strength and ability to feel touch, temperature, and pain. They will also perform a blood test to see if you have any underlying issues like high blood sugar that could be causing the peripheral neuropathy.