Peripheral Neuropathy can present as irregular sensations, such as, numbness, tingling, burning, or a feeling of ‘walking on eggshells’
Peripheral Neuropathy may not be a term you have heard before, in today’s blog we will unpack what it means and how it can be managed.
What is Peripheral Neuropathy?
Peripheral Neuropathy is described as damage to the nerves of the Peripheral Nervous System (PNS) which are essentially all nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord. This system integrates with the Central Nervous System (CNS) relaying messages to each other.
We often see the effects of Peripheral Neuropathy in the extremities (fingers and toes) first, because they are the furthest away from the CNS.
Damage to the sensory nerves can cause irregular sensations, such as, numbness, tingling, burning, “glove and sock effect” (feeling like you’re wearing a sock or a glove even when you’re not), “walking on eggshells” and various other interpretations that can be subjective to the individual.
It can also result in the inability to detect heat, cold, touch and pain from a physical stimulus. However, in some more severe cases of Peripheral Neuropathy the individual can experience constant unexplained pain.
Further to this, motor and sensory nerves may be affected resulting in a variety of potential reactions including, muscle weakness, limited balance and fluctuation of bodily functions.
What causes Peripheral Neuropathy?
There are many causes of Peripheral Neuropathy, some of the most common are:
- Diabetes: Peripheral neuropathy is a common complication of diabetes. High blood sugar levels can damage the small blood vessels that supply nutrients to the nerves, leading to nerve damage.
- Vascular problems: Conditions that affect blood flow, such as peripheral artery disease, can restrict the oxygen and nutrient supply to the peripheral nerves. Inadequate blood flow can result in nerve damage and peripheral neuropathy.
- Physical trauma to nerves: Accidents, falls, sports injuries, or surgeries can cause direct damage to the peripheral nerves. The trauma may result in nerve compression, stretching, or severing, leading to neuropathic symptoms.
- Autoimmune diseases: Certain autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and Guillain-Barré syndrome, can cause the immune system to attack the peripheral nerves. This immune response can lead to inflammation and damage to the nerves.
- Chemotherapy drugs: Some chemotherapy medications used in cancer treatment can cause peripheral neuropathy as a side effect. These drugs can damage nerve cells, leading to symptoms such as numbness, tingling, or pain in the hands and feet.
- Alcoholism: Chronic excessive alcohol consumption can lead to nutritional deficiencies, particularly of thiamine (vitamin B1). Thiamine deficiency, known as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, can cause peripheral neuropathy.
- Kidney or Liver Disorders: Kidney disease or liver disease can result in a buildup of toxins and waste products in the body, which can affect nerve function and lead to peripheral neuropathy.
It’s important to note that these are just some of the common causes of peripheral neuropathy. Other factors, such as genetic predisposition, exposure to toxins, certain medications, and nutritional deficiencies, can also contribute to the development of peripheral neuropathy.
Peripheral Neuropathy Treatment and Management
In most cases, the symptoms are irreversible and progressive, thus treatment is centered around pain management, reducing the effects and slowing the progression.
A key aspect of pain management is the assessment of lifestyle choices, for example, strength and balance through exercise, or reducing exposure to causative toxins etc.
Additionally, a doctor can prescribe medication to assist with pain management.
Our podiatrists have the necessary training and experience to assist with all aspects of Peripheral Neuropathy including, monitoring progression, wound care, and strengthening the muscles in your feet.
Got any questions? Your podiatrist will be happy to help you!