Peripheral Neuropathy

Your ability to move and feel is made possible by a complex network of nerves and cells. They act like information highways to relay messages to and from your brain and spinal cord to various parts of the body.

Connections that control your sense of touch, how you feel pain and temperature and muscle strength are called peripheral nerves. Damage to these nerves is known as peripheral neuropathy. 

Most of the time, peripheral neuropathy starts in the fingers and toes. As it gets worse, it moves into the limbs, causing pain and loss of feeling in the feet, legs, and hands. Signs and symptoms of peripheral neuropathy include:

  • Gradual onset of numbness, prickling or tingling in your feet or hands, which can spread upward into your legs and arms
  • Sharp, jabbing, throbbing, freezing or burning pain
  • Extreme sensitivity to touch
  • Lack of coordination and falling
  • Muscle weakness or paralysis if motor nerves are affected

Doctors don't always know what causes peripheral neuropathy. It is often the result of other health problems, such as:

  • Diabetes. Having your blood sugar too high for too long can damage the nerves.
  • Kidney problems can lead to toxic substances in the blood that damage nerves.
  • Vitamin deficiencies and alcoholism. Not getting enough nutrients, such as vitamin B-12, can damage nerves. Overuse of alcohol and not eating a healthy diet can lead to these vitamin deficiencies.
  • Infectious or inflammatory diseases, such as HIV or Guillain-Barré syndrome. These diseases can damage the central and peripheral nerves.
  • Exposure to toxic substances, such as arsenic, or by certain medicines such as those used for chemotherapy.

In many cases, neuropathy symptoms go away by treating the underlying condition. Certain medications and therapies, along with diet and lifestyle changes, can help reduce neuropathic pain.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor. Mercy physicians are expertly trained to screen for, diagnose and treat neuropathy. They will assess your situation and develop a comprehensive treatment plan to reduce your pain and get you back to doing all the things you love.

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