WHAT IS IT?
This condition results from damage to your peripheral nerves — usually those in your hands and feet — that causes weakness, numbness, and pain. The pain is typically accompanied by a tingling sensation.
Your peripheral nervous system sends information from your brain and spinal cord (central nervous system) to the rest of your body, and it and transmits information from your body back to your brain.
Peripheral neuropathy causes these messages to become less clear. The condition can result from traumatic injuries, infections, metabolic problems, certain medications, exposure to toxins, and alcoholism. One of the most common causes is diabetes. More than half of people with diabetes develop some type of neuropathy.
Signs and symptoms may include:
- Gradual onset of numbness and tingling in your feet or hands, which may spread upward into your legs and arms
- Sharp, jabbing or burning pain
- Extreme sensitivity to touch
- Lack of coordination and falling
- Muscle weakness or paralysis if motor nerves are affected
- Heat intolerance and altered sweating
- Bowel, bladder or digestive problems
- Blood pressure changes, causing dizziness or lightheadedness
The goals of treatment are to manage the condition causing neuropathy and to relieve symptoms.
Medications used to relieve peripheral neuropathy pain include:
- Pain relievers. Over-the-counter pain medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, can relieve mild symptoms. For more-severe symptoms, your doctor may recommend prescription medications.
Your doctor also may prescribe medication to treat the underlying condition that’s causing the neuropathy.
Other options for treatment include:
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). Adhesive electrodes placed on the skin deliver a gentle electric current at varying frequencies to relieve pain. TENS is applied for 30 minutes daily.
Plasma exchange and intravenous immune globulin. People with peripheral neuropathy caused by certain inflammatory conditions may benefit from these procedures.
Physical therapy. If you have muscle weakness, physical therapy can help improve your muscle strength and movements.
Surgery. Rarely, symptoms are caused by pressure on a peripheral nerve, such as from a tumor. In this case, surgery may be necessary.
To help you manage symptoms:
- Eat a balanced diet. To keep nerves healthy eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein.
- Exercise regularly. Try to get 30 minutes to an hour most days of the week.
- Avoid situations that may worsen nerve damage. This includes repetitive motions, cramped positions, exposure to toxic chemicals, smoking, and excessive alcohol.
Excerpt From: The Mayo Clinic. “Mayo Clinic A to Z Health Guide”.