March 10, 2021
The nervous system is perhaps the most complex system in the human body. Each group of nerve affects your movements, send messages to the brain, and controls the autonomic function of being alive. Every part of the body relies on the central nervous system to function effectively. Therefore, nerve damage can be incredibly harmful to your overall health.
Knowledge is power when it comes to medical care. Get to the bottom of your chronic pain and do your initial research on neuropathy. Understand your health conditions and be ready to talk about the neuropathic pain in affected areas. Keep reading for a basic overview of what neuropathy is, the different types you may deal with, causes, symptoms, and medical care.
What is neuropathy
If you break down the word, neuropathy literally means disease (pathy) of the nerves (neuro). It can affect a wide range of areas from your peripheral nerves to autonomic nerves. The central nervous system is constantly sending signals and messages from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body and to your extremities. When these nerves are damaged or diseased, you may be experiencing inappropriate signals which triggers neuropathy pain and a loss of sensation in certain sensory nerves.
Types of neuropathy
Perhaps the most common type of neuropathy that you are aware of has to do with your peripheral nervous system. Like all nerves, these also branch out from your brain and spine. The peripheral nervous system controls your limbs and muscle strength. When these types of nerves are damaged or diseased, they will send incorrect signals to the brain and give you altered sensation such as pain, numbness/tingling or weakness etc. This will often be a result of a chronic illness such as uncontrolled diabetes. Classically the entire area being supplied by the nerve will get affected in peripheral neuropathy, hence its not difficult to diagnose.
Mononeuropathy versus polyneuropathy
Within peripheral neuropathy, there are a few specific distinctions. Mononeuropathy is a case where one specific nerve is damaged. Carpal tunnel is a great example of mononeuropathy that affect the wrist. In polyneuropathy, the nerve damage spent across more than one nerve and affects multiple nerves at the same time. This type is more common.
Unlike the peripheral nervous system, you have no control over your autonomic nervous system. This is composed of a set of nerves that are working when you don’t even realize it such as the nerves that control your digestion, blood pressure, heartbeat, breathing etc. autonomic neuropathy usually goes by unrecognized, hence it is important to be more attentive to your body.
Causes Of Neuropathy
Neuropathy can be due to many different reasons and usually a physical exam and detailed investigation is required in order to diagnose it. However, there are certain conditions that put you at a higher risk, especially diabetes. Other conditions are kidney disease, vitamin deficiencies, thyroid disease, alcohol abuse, injuries, burns, and many other chronic uncontrolled medical conditions.
Diabetes is one of the most common causes of peripheral neuropathy and many diabetic patients with uncontrolled blood sugar have this problem.
Peripheral neuropathy is usually accompanied by a tingling, numbness, burning, or chronic pain in your hands and feet that then move up or down your limbs. You also may lose muscle strength, experience a loss of balance, or have difficulty walking. Chronic neuropathic pain means you should take the first step to find the best way to treat your neuropathy and increase your quality of life.
If you are suffering from autonomic neuropathy rather than peripheral neuropathy, you may experience different symptoms. These autonomic symptoms tend to affect your digestive system, urinary track and other internal systems. You may experience excessive sweating, digestive tract problems, urine incontinence, dizziness, blood pressure changes or constipation. These may be signs that you need additional test to find the right treatment plan.
The most effective way to address neuropathy is to treat the underlying conditions to slow down it’s progression. Diabetic patients, for example, should lower their high blood sugar to help heal the underlying cause of their diabetic neuropathy. Or if your neuropathy is a response to vitamin deficiencies, start taking more supplements. Depending on your form of peripheral neuropathy, you’ll want to take different steps to ease the pain and irritation.
There are medications you can take, such as Over-the-counter oral medication like acetaminophen, aspirin, and ibuprofen that can help ease mild pain. For severe cases, you may need prescription pain medication like anti-convulsant drugs, antidepressants or a small dose of opioids.
Another treatment of neuropathic pain is physical therapy to help with your daily activities. This can relieve pain, muscle cramps, and tingling sensation. Also consider the benefits of self-care and relaxation techniques. Use stockings if you need to at home, have splints available, and set up your home to help you avoid falls in the future. Rely on your healthcare providers to help you find a treatment plan based on your severity of sensory symptoms.