Peripheral: means beyond the brain and the spinal cord.
Neuro: Related to the nerves.
Peripheral neuropathy means the conditions that result when nerves that send messages from the brain to the spinal cord and to the rest of the body are damaged or diseased.
The peripheral nerves make up a complex network that connects the brain and spinal cord to the muscles, skin, and internal organs. Typically, one damage to a nerve can affect one or more dermatomes, which can be tracked to specific areas of the human body. Damage to these nerves disconnects communication between the brain and other parts of the body and can impair or reduce muscle movement, prohibit normal sensation in the arms and legs, and cause pain.
Types of Peripheral Neuropathy?
There are several different kinds of peripheral neuropathies that have a variety of causes. They range from carpal tunnel syndrome (a traumatic injury common after chronic repetitive use of the hands and wrists) to nerve damage linked to diabetes.
Besides, peripheral neuropathies are common, especially among people over the age of 50.
Neuropathies are typically classified according to the problems and pain they cause or what is at the root of the damage. Besides, there are terms that express how extensively the nerves have been damaged.
The term mononeuropathy refers to single peripheral nerve damage. Physical injury or shock such as from an accident is the most common cause. Also, prolonged pressure on a nerve, caused by extended periods of being sedentary (such as sitting in a wheelchair, sitting uncomfortably in a tight place or lying in bed), or continuous, repetitive motions.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the famous type of Mononeuropathy. It called an overuse strain injury, which happen when the nerve that travels through the wrist is compressed. Therefore people whose work requires repeated motions with the wrist (such as assembly-line workers, and those who use computer for prolonged periods) are at greater risk.
The damage to the nerve can result in tingling, numbness, unusual sensations, and pain in the first 3 fingers on the thumb side of the hand. At night, a person may awaken with numbness in their hand or discover that when they perform activities, the numbness is more sensitive. In time, carpal tunnel injuries can reduce the performance of the muscles in the hand. Maybe you can also feel pain, tingling, or burning in your arm and shoulder.
Other examples of Mononeuropathies that can cause weakness in the affected parts of the body, especially hands and feet:
- Ulnar nerve palsy appears when the nerve that passes close to the surface of the skin at the elbow is damaged. The numbness is noticed in the 4th and 5th digit of the hand.
- Radial nerve palsy is caused by injury to the nerve that runs along the lower side of the upper arm and can happen with fractures of the humerus bone in the upper part of the arm.
- Peroneal nerve palsy occurs when the nerve at the top of the calf on the outside of the knee is compressed. In consequently, it becomes difficult to raise the foot, this condition called “foot drop”.
Neuropathy can impact nerves that control muscle movement (motor nerves and those that detect sensations such as hotness or pain (sensory nerves). In some cases, it can influence on internal organs, such as the blood vessels, heart, or bladder. In addition, Autonomic Neuropathy is the condition when internal organs affected. As a result, This condition can cause low blood pressure or problems with sweating.
Polyneuropathy causes the greatest number of peripheral neuropathy cases. It happens when multiple peripheral nerves throughout the body malfunction at the same time. Besides, polyneuropathy can have a lot of causes, including exposure to certain toxins like alcohol addicts, poor nutrition (particularly vitamin B deficiency), and some complications from diseases such as cancer or kidney failure.
Diabetic neuropathy is one of the most common forms of chronic polyneuropathy, people with diabetes can exposure to this condition. People with poorly controlled blood sugar levels. Though, diabetes may also cause a mononeuropathy.
The symptoms of polyneuropathy are:
- Numbness and Tingling.
- Loss of sensation in the arms and legs.
- A burning sensation in the feet or hands.
People with chronic polyneuropathy often lose their ability to sense temperature and pain, therefore they can burn themselves and develop open sores as the result of injury or prolonged pressure. If the nerves serving the organs are involved, that causes diarrhea or constipation and may result in the loss of bowel or bladder control. A result, all this may lead to sexual dysfunction and abnormally low blood pressure also can happen.
Guillain-Barre syndrome is the most serious polyneuropathies, this is a rare disease that strikes suddenly when the body’s immune system attacks nerves just as they leave the spinal cord. In this case, symptoms tend to appear quickly and worse, sometimes can lead to paralysis. Some of the early symptoms include weakness and tingling that eventually may spread into the arms. Also, blood pressure problems, heart rhythm problems, and breathing difficulty may happen in more severe cases. However, regardless of the severity of the disease, when patients receive treatment early then recovery rates are good.
Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy is a chronic form of Guillain-Barre in which the symptoms can take months and years appearing on the body. Therefore early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for CIDP patients, 30% of which risk eventually being locked up to a wheelchair.
Causes Peripheral Neuropathy?
Many factors can cause peripheral neuropathies, so it is so difficult to pinpoint the origin. Neuropathies can occur by one of 3 methods:
- Acquired neuropathies are caused by environmental factors like toxins, trauma, illness, or infection. Acquired neuropathies causes include:
- Inherited diseases.
- Poor nutrition or vitamin B 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 (Lyme disease, shingles, or AIDS).
- Hereditary neuropathies are one of most diseases of the peripheral nerves that are genetically passed from parent to child. Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease type 1 is the most common. It is characterized by weakness in the legs and the arms, these are symptoms that usually appear between mid-childhood and age of 30. Besides, this disease is caused by degeneration of the insulation that surrounds the nerves and helps them conduct the electrical impulses needed for them to trigger muscle movement.
- Idiopathic neuropathy is a disease when doctors can’t know the cause. Unfortunately, there is no specific cure for idiopathic neuropathy. Besides, there are some treatments including medication, physical therapy, and lifestyle modifications that can help you function and feel better.