Peripheral neuropathy is an ailment that affects the nerves, that does not include the spinal cord or the brain. It is not a single disease, but a general term used to describe a number of disorders that are caused by the peripheral nervous system of the body getting damaged. People who suffer from this nerve disorder usually experience burning pain, weakness, numbness, or tingling sensation.
What Exactly is the Peripheral Nervous System?
The nervous system of the body comprises two parts: the central nervous system, or the CNS, which includes the spinal cord and the brain, and the peripheral nervous system, which comprises the nerves that run from the spinal cord and the brain to the rest of the body, such as the hands and arms, the feet and legs, the joints, the internal organs, and also the skin, nose, ears, eyes, and mouth.
When these nerves are destroyed or damaged and lose their ability of sending messages from the brain and the spinal cord to other parts of the body, it results in neuropathy.
Since the peripheral nerves run from the brain and the spinal cord to the hands, arms, feet, and legs, when they are damaged, it leads to pain and numbness to these areas.
The condition generally begins with tingling, prickling, or numbness in the fingers or toes. It can spread to the hands or feet, and cause shooting pain, throbbing, freezing, or burning sensations, which often worsen at night.
These symptoms can either be periodic or constant, and they are usually felt in equal intensity on both sides of the body, as in, both feet or both hands. Certain kinds of neuropathy occur suddenly, whereas other types develop more gradually over several years.
- Diabetes Mellitus
- Deficiency of folate and vitamin B12
- Shingles or Postherpetic Neuralgia
- Kidney failure, syphilis, and AIDs; either due to the disease itself or because of the treatment
- Autoimmune disorders like Guillain-Barre syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus
- Due to being exposed to toxins like organophosphate pesticides, mercury, arsenic, lead, gold compounds, and heavy metals
- Drugs to treat cancer, like vincristine, as well as other medications like certain antibiotics, such as isoniazid and metronidazole
- Disorders that are genetically inherited, like Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease or amyloid polyneuropathy
- Alcohol consumption
Although neuropathy is caused most often due to postherpetic neuralgia or diabetes, often there seems to be no cause for it to be triggered off. In such cases, it is known as idiopathic peripheral neuropathy.
In some cases, entrapments of the peripheral nerve, like the carpal tunnel syndrome, are regarded as peripheral neuropathies. In such cases, instead of a diseased state, it is the pressure that the nerve is subjected to, that results in the malfunction of the nerve.
The symptoms could also be dependent on the type of peripheral nerves that have undergone damage. Given below are some of the indications exhibited by the affected individual
- A heightened sensitivity to being touched
- Abnormalities in the pulse or blood pressure
- Weakness in the muscles
- Abnormal sweating
- Sleep disorders due to pain in the legs and feet
- Loss of coordination and balance
- Difficulty in arm movements and in walking
- A feeling of wearing invisible socks or gloves
Symptoms like being unable to hold something or weakness in the limbs, losing the sensation of knowing where your feet are, and feeling burning or stabbing pain in the limbs, are all indications of peripheral neuropathy.