The vast array of symptoms caused by neuropathy, also known as peripheral neuropathy, reflect the fact that it may be caused by an equally broad range of ailments involving disease and damage to peripheral nerves.
Signs and Symptoms of Neuropathy
Depending on the reason and unique to each patient, signs and symptoms of neuropathy can include: pain; tingling, burning or prickling sensations; increased sensitivity to touch; muscle weakness or wasting; temporary or permanent numbness; paralysis; dysfunction in glands or organs; or impairment in urination and sexual functioning.
Such signs and symptoms are dependent on whether autonomic, sensory, or motor nerves, as well as a combination of them, are ultimately affected. Autonomic nerve damage can influence physiological functions like blood pressure or create gastrointestinal problems and issues. Damage or dysfunction in the sensory nerves may impact sensations and sense of equilibrium or balance, while harm to motor nerves may affect movement and reflexes. When both sensory and motor nerves are involved, the condition is known as sensorimotor polyneuropathy.
Diabetic Neuropathy Symptoms
Diabetic peripheral neuropathy, which affects between 12 and 50 percent of individuals with diabetes, is one of the most common types of neuropathy. Many times, symptoms include a gradual change in sensation, as well as pain and weakness in the feet and, although less commonly, the hands. As the neuropathy develops further, it can lead to a loss of sensation in the affected regions.
This lack of feeling raises the odds of harm to the affected areas, explains Matthew Villani, doctor of podiatric medicine at Central Florida Regional Hospital at Lake Mary. Without the pain to signal when there’s an issue, individuals with diabetic neuropathy may allow modest abrasions or blisters on their feet, for instance, to fester as sores or ulcers. “The ulcers can become infected since they are open wounds, which can also progress to bone infection. Unfortunately, it frequently requires amputations if it does progress to that point”, states Dr. Matthew Villani.
Chemotherapy-Associated Neuropathy Symptoms
Cancer patients may suffer with neuropathy induced by chemotherapy as well as by other drugs and/or medications used to treat the disease. Symptoms can include intense pain, impaired movement, changes in heart rate and blood pressure, issues with balance, difficulty breathing, paralysis, and even organ failure. After chemotherapy is done, the symptoms frequently abate swiftly, but occasionally they last more, or these may not go away at all.
HIV- and AIDS-Associated Neuropathy Symptoms
Individuals being treated for HIV or AIDS can develop neuropathy from effects of the virus and the drugs and/or medications used to treat it as well. Common symptoms include stiffness, burning, prickling, tingling, and loss of feeling in the toes and soles of their feet. Sometimes the nerves in the fingers, hands, and wrists are also affected. The drugs Videx (didanosine), Hivid (zalcitabine), and Zerit (stavudine) have been most commonly associated with neuropathic symptoms.
Inflammation-Associated Neuropathy Symptoms
Inflammation caused by infections, like herpes zoster (also known as shingles), Lyme disease, or hepatitis B and hepatitis C, may lead to neuropathy, as may inflammation caused by autoimmune disorders, such as vasculitis, sarcoidosis, or autoimmune disease. In such situations, the signs and symptoms generally include burning and tingling sensations or numbness.
Other Causes of Neuropathy Symptoms
Additional causes of neuropathy and associated signs and symptoms include metabolic disorders, such as hypoglycemia or kidney failure; autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Sjogren’s syndrome, and Guillain-Barré syndrome; toxicity; hereditary disorders, such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disorder; hormonal disorders; alcoholism; vitamin deficiencies; physical trauma or injury; compression; and repetitive stress. In addition, many individuals may experience idiopathic neuropathy signs and symptoms, meaning that healthcare professionals may not know the reason for their neuropathy.
Dr. Alex Jimenez’s Insight
Neuropathy can be caused by a variety of injuries and/or aggravated conditions, often manifesting into a plethora of associated signs and symptoms. While every type of neuropathy, such as diabetic neuropathy or autoimmune disease-associated neuropathy, develops its own unique group of signs and symptoms, many patients will often report common complaints. Individuals with neuropathy generally describe their pain as stabbing, burning or tingling in character. If you experience unusual or abnormal tingling or burning sensations, weakness and/or pain in your hands and feet, it’s essential to seek immediate medical attention in order to receive a proper diagnosis of the cause of your specific signs and symptoms. Early diagnosis may help prevent further nerve injury.
What are the Common Signs and Symptoms of Neuropathy?
“Although there’s a wide array of signs and symptoms associated with neuropathy, the type of pain that people encounter may be common in many aspects of the disorder”, notes Vernon Williams, MD, a sports neurologist and director of the Center for Sports Neurology and Pain Medicine at Cedars-Sini Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles. “The character and quality of neuropathic pain will often be pain that is burning or electric in character.” Furthermore, he describes that the pain will frequently be associated with different symptoms, like paresthesia, or a lack of normal sensation associated with pain; allodynia, or a painful reaction to a stimulus that wouldn’t normally trigger pain signals; and hyperalgesia, or a striking or severe pain in response to a stimulus that normally causes moderate pain.
How is Neuropathy Diagnosed?
If you think you’re having any of the above neuropathy signs and symptoms, consult a healthcare professional. A number of tests can be done to diagnose neuropathy. “There are certain patterns of complaints that indicate neuropathy,” stated Dr. Williams, “so taking down a patient’s history which includes a description of these complaints is an important first step.”
“After that, your healthcare professional can perform a physical evaluation, including checking motor and sensory function, assessing deep tendon reflexes, as well as looking for signs and symptoms like allodynia and hyperalgesia,” Williams says. “Then we can even perform electrodiagnostic testing; the most common being electromyography and nerve conduction testing, where we can stimulate nerves and document responses, calculate the rate at which signals are being transmitted and see whether there are some areas where nerves are not transmitting signals normally,” Williams continues.
With needle tests, Williams states, “We can put modest needles into human muscles, and, according to what we see and listen together with all the needle in the muscle, we get details about the way the nerves supplying those muscle tissues are functioning. There are a number of unique tests that could be handy to identifying neuropathy, in addition to localizing where the abnormality is the most likely to be coming from”, concluded Dr. Vernon Williams.
Often, blood tests may test for elevated blood glucose to see whether your neuropathy signs and symptoms could possibly be associated to type 2 diabetes, nutritional deficiencies, toxic elements, hereditary disorders, and evidence of an abnormal immune response. Your healthcare professional may also do a nerve biopsy, which normally involves removing a small segment of a sensory nerve to search for abnormalities, or even a skin biopsy to see if there’s a reduction in nerve endings.
To give yourself the best chance of an accurate diagnosis as well as relief from your neuropathy signs and symptoms, be prepared to describe everything you are experiencing in detail, even when you experience them, how long an episode persists, and the amount of pain, discomfort or loss of sensation or movement you experience. The more specific you are on the signs and symptoms you’re experiencing, the easier it’ll be for your doctor to understand what’s happening. The scope of our information is limited to chiropractic as well as to spinal injuries and conditions. To discuss the subject matter, please feel free to ask Dr. Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900 .
Curated by Dr. Alex Jimenez
Additional Topics: Sciatica
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