Diabetic and Peripheral Neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy is a condition that results when nerves that carry messages to the spinal cord and brain are damaged or diseased. The peripheral nerves emanate from the spinal cord and connect to the muscles, internal organs, and skin. When these nerves suffer damage, pain will track to the area of the body associated with them. Damage to the nerves impairs muscle movement, causes pain, and prevents normal sensation in the legs and arms.
How common is peripheral neuropathy?
According to experts, around 20 million Americans have peripheral neuropathy. While neuropathy can occur at any age, it is more common among older adults, with approximately 9% of Medicare patients affected. The annual cost to Medicare has been reported to exceed $3.5 billion.
What are the types of neuropathy?
There are many types of neuropathies, which stem from several causes. Peripheral neuropathies are more common among people over the age of 55 years. Around 30% of neuropathies occur as a complication of diabetes, which are related to prolonged high levels of blood glucose. In addition, approximately 30% of neuropathies are idiopathic, which means there is no exact or known cause. Two categories of neuropathies are:
- Focal peripheral neuropathies – These include post-herpetic neuralgia, radiculopathies, phantom limb pain, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Generalized polyneuropathies – These include diabetes, demyelinating conditions, alcoholism, autoimmune disease, HIV, toxin exposure, and vitamin B deficiency.
What is the difference between mononeuropathy and polyneuropathy?
Damage to only one peripheral nerve is mononeuropathy, as with carpal tunnel syndrome, ulnar nerve palsy, and radial nerve palsy. Polyneuropathy involves multiple injured peripheral nerves, which occurs from alcohol abuse, vitamin B deficiency, and renal failure. The most common type of chronic polyneuropathy is diabetic neuropathy.
What are the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy?
The symptoms of neuropathy include pain, tingling, burning, numbness, and loss of sensation to the arms and/or legs. In addition, there is a decreased ability to sense temperature and pain, so a person with neuropathy may easily burn or abstain an injury. Other symptoms include low blood pressure and sexual dysfunction. When the body’s immune system attacks the peripheral nerves, a rare and serious disease occurs called Guillain-Barre syndrome. This disease leads to paralysis and death.
What causes peripheral neuropathy?
Factors that cause acquired neuropathies include toxins, illness, trauma, and infection. The causes are diabetes, rare inherited diseases, poor nutrition, kidney disease, cancer, chemotherapy, and certain medications. Hereditary neuropathies pass from parent to child, such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. Idiopathic neuropathies, which account for one-third of these conditions, have no known cause.
How does the doctor diagnose peripheral neuropathy?
The Boulder pain doctor diagnoses peripheral neuropathy by conducting a physical examination and taking a detailed medical history. A computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging test see if a herniated disc or tumor is pressing on a nerve. Blood tests are will assess blood sugar levels, and electromyography is a nerve conduction test that evaluates nerve functions.
What treats peripheral neuropathy?
There are several treatments for peripheral neuropathy. These include:
- Over-the-counter pain medicines
- Prescription pain medicines
- Transcutaneous electronic nerve stimulation (TENS)
- Ergonomic casts