Disorders that arise due to damage to the peripheral nervous system are referred to as peripheral neuropathy, or neuropathy. Peripheral nerves are the nerves that connect the brain and spinal cord to different parts of the body. These nerves innervate different organs of our body, including the skin, muscles, and the vital organs, and may arise from the brain or the spinal cord.
The damage to the peripheral nervous system may be an impairment of one nerve or a group of nerves. Damage to the nerves affects the message network to and from the brain and spinal cord resulting in impaired muscle functioning and sensations, causing immense pain.
Types of Neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy is categorized into different types based on the actual cause:
Mononeuropathy – This condition is caused by damage to one nerve in the peripheral nervous system. Some of the common causes of mononeuropathy include accidents, physical injuries, and persistent pressure on one nerve.
One of the most common types of mononeuropathy is carpal tunnel syndrome, which is caused by prolonged pressure on the wrist as in assembly-line workers and computer programmers. This nerve damage may cause numbness and tingling sensations in the first three fingers of the hand. It may also result in muscle weakness with pain, tingling, and burning sensation in the arms.
Polyneuropathy – This condition arises when many nerves in the peripheral nervous system are affected simultaneously. Certain medications, vitamin B12 deficiency, cancer and kidney failure are some of the most common causes of polyneuropathy. People suffering from diabetes may develop this condition, where it is referred to as diabetic neuropathy.
Polyneuropathy is characterized by tingling and numbing feelings and loss of sensation in the arms and legs. In many cases, people with this condition often lose their ability to sense pain and temperature. This increases the risk of people getting burnt and also open sores due to physical injury.
Guillain-Barre syndrome is a serious form of polyneuropathy where the body’s own immune system attacks the nerves. Symptoms of this condition have a sudden onset and progresses rapidly.
Causes of Neuropathy
A number of factors may result in peripheral neuropathy. It may be acquired, hereditary or idiopathic.
- Acquired neuropathy – Is caused by environmental factors including trauma, alcoholism, vitamin B12 deficiency, toxins, certain medications, and kidney or thyroid problems.
- Hereditary neuropathy – Is transmitted from parents to offspring.
- Idiopathic neuropathy – This condition does not have an identifiable cause.
Treatment for Neuropathy
Identifying the underlying cause of the neuropathy is vital for any effective treatment which is why it is essential that you consult a specialist at the earliest for accurate diagnosis and identification of the main cause for your current condition. Without being able to identifying the main cause for the neuropathy, doctors can at most, only prescribe medications to alleviate the symptoms rather than treating the main condition.
Some of the medications used to treat the symptoms and some of the root causes of neuropathy are:
- Pain killers – there are various OTC pain killers you can use, from ibuprofen to the rest, but it is highly recommended that you consult your doctor before opting for pain killers. Long-term use of pain killers, even the OTC medications can have a detrimental effect on your health. Prolonged usage of specific pain killers are known to cause kidney damage, whereas others like oxycodone are known to be highly addictive.
- Seizure medications: Anti-seizure medications are often used to help you deal with crippling pain from your damaged nerves. While these medicines can work for a while and will help to alleviate some of the symptoms, they are also known to cause sleepiness and drowsiness. Talk to your doctor and find out if these drugs are for you and can help you lead a normal life.
- Capsaicin cream: This cream, made from peppers can be used to alleviate some of the painful symptoms of neuropathy. The cream does work to help lessen the symptoms somewhat, but it also burns your skin and causes irritation when you use it for the first time. But these side effects should pass away with frequent usage of the cream.
- Anti-depressants: This is used to treat a variety of health conditions, but mostly it is used to treat depression. But now, doctors have started prescribing the same for pain, since it had been noted that anti-depressants can help to relieve mild to severe pain. But these come with their own range of side effects from nausea and drowsiness to decreased appetite. Also, prolonged usage of these drugs will have an impact on your overall health, so kindly consult your doctor before opting for this medication.
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS): This procedure is undertaken after consultation with your doctor and it involves passing a low voltage current through the extremities of your body. The doctor may vary the range and frequency of the current as required. This is done to stimulate various parts of your body and to help stimulate the damaged nerves.
- Plasma exchange: Here, the doctor would remove your blood along with all the antibodies and replace the same with plasma with new antibodies as a way to help treat peripheral neuropathy. By doing so, it should help stave off some of the symptoms of neuropathy.
- Intravenous immune globulin: This procedure involves pumping your body with proteins which will act as antibodies; thereby boosting your immune system and helping you deal with the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy effectively.
Alternative Medicine for Neuropathy
- Acupuncture: Acupuncture is highly recommended to help treat pain and other symptoms associated with neuropathy. This procedure is minimally invasive and consists of inserting needles at certain pressure points which can help you to relive stress, pain, and anxiety. More and more doctors have started recommending acupuncture as an alternative to the usual drugs and so far, the treatment has proven to be most effective. Moreover, with acupuncture, you can seek to stimulate the damaged nerves and to help treat the same. But there are also other medications and treatments you can opt for.
- Alpha lipoic acid: This particular acid has been used in the past to alleviate some of the painful symptoms of neuropathy. But on the downside, it comes loaded with a few side effects; it can cause your blood sugar levels to shoot up, and may even cause blisters and rashes to form on your skin. So consult your doctor and find out if it is safe for you to take this drug.
- Herbal medicine: Herbal medicines offer an alternative form of treatment when it comes to neuropathy. For example, primrose oil is often used to treat neuropathy, especially with diabetics. There are various other herbal alternatives you can use to help alleviate the pain and irritation of neuropathy and there are also a few herbals you can use to help improve your overall condition. Make sure that you keep your doctor informed regarding the various medications you are taking at the moment, including the herbal medicines. Do note that you may be highly sensitive to some of the herbal medicines, in which case you need to discontinue the same right away.
- Amino acids: Certain amino acids are used to treat neuropathy, especially in diabetics. The side effects include nausea and vomiting.
With these treatment options, you can now better manage your condition, alleviate your symptoms and treat the underlying cause as well. Neuropathy can be a lifelong condition, one that will take a lot of effort on your part to adjust. You may be required to make sudden lifestyle changes, move towards a more nourishing and nutrient rich diet and even start exercising. These should help you manage your neuropathy better.
Make sure that you include grains and broccoli as part of your regular diet; visit your doctor often and in consultation with him, make a plan of treatment for your condition. Neuropathy can be treated today with the right medication as long as the underlying cause is identified and tagged, as this can enable the doctors to treat the same effectively.
So get yourself tested and diagnosed at the earliest and the root cause identified and make sure that you get treated for your neuropathy at the earliest, for leaving it untreated can cause permanent damage to your nerves. The course of treatment depends on your doctor, your sensitivity to certain drugs and your current condition at the moment.