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What is Peripheral Neuropathy? Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

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Although it may sound like it, peripheral neuropathy isn't just one disease with a singular cause and solution. It is the overarching term for damage to a person's peripheral nervous system. The peripheral nervous system is the half of the body's overall nervous system that connects all of the nerves between the spinal cord, brain, and your body's peripherals like hands and feet, organs, facial features and the main one, a person's joints.

 

When the nerves of the body are destroyed or damaged, they become unable to communicate with the brain and spinal cord or the body's peripherals, which causes pain and numbness in the area, as the body's last resort of letting you know something is very wrong.

 

Peripheral Neuropathy and Pain

 

Pain, specifically joint pain is something that is most commonly complained of as a person ages. These vital components that are spread throughout the body allow us to do so much, but as we age as they become less responsive to healing and more prone to damage, we can't do nearly as much as we would like to. Joints are fairly interconnected with the body's nerves, so it can be easy to confuse nerve pain and joint pain, as they occur within close proximity to each other.

 

Individuals diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy may be suffering from poly peripheral neuropathy where multiple groups of nerves are affected, or mononeuropathy, where a singular nerve or group of nerves is damaged.

 

Nerve damage that leads to peripheral neuropathy can be caused by a number of things. Sudden, intense injury or trauma, prolonged compression or even inflammation due to an injury that refuses to heal, or the general wear and tear our bodies are put through. Inflammation can even be caused by what we eat, much like an allergic reaction, only internally.

 

Causes

 

Commonly, people reference carpal tunnel as a prime peripheral neuropathy diagnosis. The tasks on a computer, or smartphone these days, are so repetitive that it can cause intense wear on the joints and nerves in the hands and wrists. In addition, poor posture can contribute to this diagnosis as well. Humans are far more sedentary than they used to be, and the ways we settle in to relax or work each day are not often the best for our bodies.

 

Physical neuropathy can be caused by a number of things, such as chemo treatments, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, abnormalities in proteins, toxic chemical exposure, alcoholism, medications, or even kidney failure. Anything that severely affects a person’s nerves, whether that is to enhance or suppress, could eventually cause peripheral neuropathy. While the body is astoundingly good at healing itself, there is a limit for every person, and once prominent nerve damage occurs, it can be difficult to nearly impossible to rectify.

 

Treatments

 

With such varying limits for people’s bodies, those suffering from peripheral neuropathy will most likely experience varying pain levels. People also deal with pain differently, so it may be that one person can ignore it until it really ought to have been treated earlier on, while another must begin relying heavily on pain treatments to make it through. The kinds of treatment available for peripheral neuropathy tend to depend on the way that the neuropathy came about, whether from progressive activity or sudden injury. Identifying the cause of how the neuropathy came about will help you identify how to treat it best. From medication to alternative medicine, whatever works best with your body can mean a bit of guess and check work.

 

Over the counter options like acetaminophen are common for treating peripheral neuropathy. It is good at subduing the feeling of pain, but not necessarily the inflammation that could be causing the pain. It is important to differentiate between chronic or acute pain for this kind of treatment, as it is best for the chronic type. NSAIDs are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that are best for an all bases kind of treatment. Because they reduce swelling, pain, inflammation and stiffness, they are perfect for acute or chronic peripheral neuropathy.

 

Medicinal Alternatives

 

As far as treatments that are more on the alternative side, biofeedback, acupuncture, relaxation techniques including massage and ergonomics or splints make the list. These are treatment best for when the pain has not reached an unbearable level, and can be most effective with an early diagnosis of peripheral neuropathy.

 

For more in-depth information, you could see this list on Nervepaintreatment.org. Lists such as these are constantly being updated as new information regarding all aspects of peripheral neuropathy is discovered. Treatments and causes are most popular, but knowing exactly what peripheral neuropathy is will help in faster diagnoses and better treatments.