Small fibers are the tiny nerve fibers that lie under the skin surface and help us feel the sense of temperature, pain, discomfort, etc. The term neuropathy means damage to the nerves and small fiber neuropathy is a disease that affects a part of this peripheral nervous system. Due to the nerve damage, the temperature sensitivity of the body decreases. This loss of sensation is mostly felt in the hands and feet, particularly in the fingers and toes.
There are several health conditions that cause damage to these nerves. It is most commonly found in people, who are suffering from diabetes. Rise in blood sugar level, has damaging effects on the nerve fibers in the body. This condition is known as diabetic neuropathy, and its effects are more prominent in the nerves located in the hands and feet. Almost 50 per cent of the diabetic patients are found to have this disorder.
Autoimmune disease and chronic illnesses, like, HIV and AIDS can also be held responsible for this problem. They attack the immune system, which, in turn, have a negative impact on the nervous system. Excessive consumption of alcohol and smoking restricts proper supply of oxygen to the nerves and leads to damage. These nerves can sustain injury due to some trauma or surgery as well.
As we have already discussed above that one of the key symptoms of small fiber neuropathy is inability to respond to heat or cold. Lack of sensation in the feet and toes can cause sudden loss of physical balance while walking or standing. The patient cannot feel the pain, however, he can experience a stabbing or burning sensation in various parts of the body, such as, arms, legs, face, head, etc.
This feeling gets stronger when the skin comes in contact with clothing. For this reason, some people find it difficult to wear shoes and socks. This kind of pain is often accompanied by numbness and tingling in the hands and feet. It often causes weakness in the muscles of the body. Weakening of the muscles in the bladder leads to urinary incontinence. Other symptoms are low blood pressure, dizziness, excessive sweating, difficulty in digestion, etc.
Diabetic patients are advised to keep the blood sugar levels low, with diet and medicines. Alcohol consumption and smoking should be stopped completely to reduce the symptoms. To provide relief from the burning pain sensation, anti-inflammatory medicines, narcotic pain relievers, anticonvulsants, antidepressants are prescribed. These medicines are used in combination to achieve best results.
However, the dosage should be kept low, as they have side effects, like, drowsiness and confusion. In some cases, the immune system is strengthened with the help of a special technique known as Intravenous immunoglobulin (or IVIG). Acupuncture is an alternative method of treatment used effectively to control the symptoms of small fiber peripheral neuropathy. Physical therapy is highly beneficial for those who have weak muscles.
Small fiber neuropathy can be prevented, if you lead a healthy lifestyle, which includes a proper diet, regular exercise and maintaining a healthy body weight. As diabetes patients are more prone to develop this problem, they must take extra care to control the blood sugar levels in the blood. Intake of alcohol should be limited to avoid alcohol neuropathy. People suffering from autoimmune disease must take advice from their doctor to reduce the chances of this disease.