Has your leg ever “fallen asleep?” At most, this is a minor and temporary annoyance. Stand up and wiggle your toes a bit, and that prickly feeling goes away.
When peripheral neuropathy damages your nerves from the inside, however, that buzzy feeling in feet and toes becomes inescapable. Persistent sensory and even motor control issues lead to burning, tingling, shooting pain, or even complete numbness. Not only does this cause discomfort, but it can also cause you to miss the warning signs of a more serious injury.
What Are the Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy?
Because different types of nerves can be affected by neuropathy, there are many possible symptoms. It all depends on the type and location of the nerves, as well as the extent of the damage. By type:
- Sensory nerves. This is the most common type. Damage to sensory nerves disrupts your ability to feel and process sensations like touch, temperature, pressure, and pain accurately. Sometimes, this manifests as tingling, prickling, jabbing, burning, or freezing sensations. Other times, it may produce hypersensitivity to touch, or at the other end, total numbness.
- Motor nerves. These nerves control and regulate muscle movement. When damaged, legs may feel weak, unstable, or uncoordinated. Balance may become an issue.
- Autonomic nerves. Damage to autonomic nerves impairs your body’s ability to regulate internal systems. Examples of possible symptoms include increased sweating, poor bladder or bowel function, digestive problems, or even variations in blood pressure.
Peripheral Neuropathy Can Lead to Serious Complications
In the moment, you may not enjoy the pain of an injury or illness. But pain acts as a critical “warning system” for your body. It protects you from sustaining further damage, and urges you to seek help when something is wrong. Knock out that warning system, and the risk of complications multiplies exponentially.
The situation is even more dangerous if your circulation levels are low due to a condition like diabetes. Under such conditions, troubles are much more difficult to catch (because you can’t feel them), but they also take longer to heal and are more likely to become infected (due to reduced blood flow, oxygen, and immune response).
What Are the Causes of Neuropathy?
By far, the leading cause of neuropathy is diabetes and prediabetes. High levels of sugar in the blood are incredibly toxic for nerves and prevent them from getting the nutrition they need. For this reason, roughly half of all people with diabetes will eventually develop some
form of neuropathy at some point in their lives.
Other causes may include:
- Dietary deficiencies, especially a lack of certain vitamins (B6, B12, E, niacin, and others)
- Alcohol abuse
- A direct trauma or injury to the nerves
- Surgical complications
- Certain medications, particularly chemotherapy
- Auto-immune disorders
In about 1 in 20 cases of peripheral neuropathy, the root cause remains unknown. This is known as idiopathic neuropathy.
How Is Neuropathy Treated?
Unfortunately, the full effects of neuropathy are not always completely curable. However, seeking treatment can help you keep the problem from getting worse, relieve symptoms, and in some cases even heal nerves and restore function.
At our office, we use a combination of medications and state-of-the-art laser therapy to help you overcome your neuropathy pain. In addition to both over-the-counter and prescription painkillers, other medications (including those originally developed to treat seizures or depression) have also proven effective relieving nerve pain.
In addition to traditional medications, the MLS Laser system is an exciting new option for people with neuropathy. The machine uses beams of light at two different wavelengths—one tuned to provide an analgesic effect, and the other an anti-inflammatory—that penetrate deep into the tissues at the site of the injury and produce a powerful therapeutic effect. Metabolism and vascular activity in the cells increase, speeding up the healing process and increasing nerve conduction. This can actually regenerate the nerve fibers themselves, restoring lost function.
Take Good Care of Your Nerves
A combination of medical treatment and simple, healthy lifestyle habits can make a big difference in both managing neuropathy pain and preventing continued progression of the disease. Carefully managing any underlying conditions (such as keeping your blood sugar in check if you have diabetes) along with a healthy diet, regular exercise, and avoiding smoking or alcohol abuse is a huge part of the battle.
Another critical component? Making sure you have a foot care specialist ready to take action at the first sign of problems. Early intervention is the best way to guarantee a good outcome and enjoy a lifetime of healthy peripheral nerves. To schedule an appointment with Wilks Advanced Foot Care, please call us today at (541) 673-0742.
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