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How To Recognize If You Have Neuropathy

Living with any sort of condition can be difficult and it doesn’t help that most have a lot of the same symptoms. All things considered, narrowing down the type of condition you have can be stressful. Neuropathy is no exception to this. Neuropathy, often called peripheral neuropathy, indicates a problem within the peripheral nervous system. It means there is damage or dysfunction to one or more nerves. Neuropathy is typically divided into two subcategories: mononeuropathy and polyneuropathy.

Symptoms vary depending on a number of factors, such as underlying conditions, or where the neuropathy is localized. If you are not sure if the symptoms you are experiencing are due to neuropathy, read through this guide on the different types of neuropathy, as well as symptoms they induce to see if you have neuropathy. 

Mononeuropathy

Damage to a single peripheral nerve is called mononeuropathy. The most common cause of this specific type of neuropathy is physical injury or trauma. Certain lifestyle habits can also induce mononeuropathy, such as sitting or lying down for extended periods of time as well as continuous and repetitive movements. Damaged nerves cause numbness, tingling, unusual sensations, and pain. The person may awaken during the night because of these symptoms or experience them while performing daily activities. 

Here are examples of other mononeuropathies that can cause weakness in the affected parts of the body, such as hands and feet:

Ulnar nerve palsy occurs when the nerve that passes close to the surface of the skin at the elbow is damaged. The numbness is noted in the 4th and 5th digits of the hand.

Radial nerve palsy is caused by injury to the nerve that runs along the underside of the upper arm and can occur with fractures of the humerus bone in the upper part of the arm.

Peroneal nerve palsy results when the nerve at the top of the calf on the outside of the knee is compressed. This leads to a condition called “foot drop,” in which it becomes difficult to lift the foot.

Neuropathy can affect nerves that control muscle movement (motor nerves) and those that detect sensations such as coldness or pain (sensory nerves). In some cases, it can affect internal organs, such as the heart, blood vessels, bladder, or intestines. Neuropathy that affects internal organs is called autonomic neuropathy. This rare condition can cause low blood pressure or problems with sweating.

Polyneuropathy

Polyneuropathy is another category under which most other types of neuropathy fall. This condition occurs when there are multiple dysfunctional peripheral nerves at the same time throughout the body. Polyneuropathy can have a number of causes such as alcohol abuse, poor nutrition, or underlying diseases. 

The most common form of this type of polyneuropathy is diabetic neuropathy, a condition that occurs as the name suggests to those with diabetes. It can be more severe in those with poorly controlled blood and sugar levels. Though less common, diabetes can also cause mononeuropathy.

The most common symptoms of polyneuropathy are:

> Tingling

> Numbness

> Loss of sensation in the arms and legs

> A burning sensation in the feet or hands

People with chronic polyneuropathy are prone to injury due to their inability to sense temperature or pain. If nerves serving the organs are dysfunctional as well this can cause other symptoms such as loss of bowel or bladder control. 

Symptoms 

The symptoms of peripheral neuropathy vary based on the type that you have and what part of the body is affected. Symptoms can range from tingling or numbness in a certain body part to more serious effects such as burning pain or paralysis.

> Muscle weakness

> Cramps

> Muscle twitching

> Loss of muscle and bone

> Changes in skin, hair, or nails

> Numbness

> Loss of sensation or feeling in body parts

> Loss of balance or other functions as a side effect of the loss of feeling in the legs, arms, or other body parts

> Emotional disturbances

> Sleep disruptions

> Loss of pain or sensation that can put you at risks, such as not feeling an impending heart attack or limb pain

> Inability to sweat properly, leading to heat intolerance

> Loss of bladder control, leading to infection or incontinence

> Dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting because of a loss of control over blood pressure

> Diarrhea, constipation, or incontinence related to nerve damage in the intestines or digestive tract

> Trouble eating or swallowing

> Life-threatening symptoms, such as difficulty breathing or irregular heartbeat

The symptoms of peripheral neuropathy may look like other conditions or medical problems. When experiencing any of these symptoms persistently, see your healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis. This will help develop a treatment plan that fits your needs.  

What Causes Peripheral Neuropathy?

There are many factors that can cause peripheral neuropathies, so it is often difficult to pinpoint the origin. Neuropathies occur by one of three methods:

Acquired neuropathies are caused by environmental factors such as toxins, trauma, illness, or infection. Known causes of acquired neuropathies include:

> Diabetes

> Several rare inherited diseases

> Alcoholism

> Poor nutrition or vitamin deficiency

> Certain kinds of cancer and chemotherapy used to treat them

> Conditions where nerves are mistakenly attacked by the body’s own immune system or damaged by an overaggressive response to injury

> Certain medications

> Kidney or thyroid disease

> Infections such as Lyme disease, shingles, or AIDS

Hereditary neuropathies are not as common. Hereditary neuropathies are diseases of the peripheral nerves that are genetically passed from parent to child. 

Idiopathic neuropathies are from an unknown cause. As many as one-third of all neuropathies are classified in this way.

What This Means For You

Now having a much better understanding of neuropathy, as well as the different types and symptoms each induce, this guide should help when considering if you have this condition. Of course, the only way to know for certain is by scheduling an appointment with one of our many doctors here at Integrated Pain Management.  

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