What Is Peripheral Neuropathy and How Can You Avoid It?

Peripheral neuropathy refers to any condition that affects the function of the nerves in your hands and feet. It can cause numbness, tingling, and weakness that leaves you uncomfortable and even frustrated. It’s often associated with diabetes, but can be caused by many other conditions as well.

At MassAve Chiropractic, we want our patients to know they may be able to lessen or even avoid the discomforts of peripheral neuropathy. Before we discuss the things you can do to prevent this painful condition, here are the basics you need to know.

What is peripheral neuropathy?

Your peripheral nervous system --- a network of nerves throughout your body -- connects to your central nervous system, which consists of your brain and spinal cord. These nerves deliver messages about the sensations you feel to your brain. But when you suffer from peripheral neuropathy, the nerves in your hands, feet, arms, and legs don’t function properly due to damage that’s usually caused by another condition.

When the nerves don’t function as they should, they may send incorrect information to your brain. These mixed messages may leave you feeling pain when there is no reason for it, or you might not feel pain when there is actual harm happening.

It’s more common than you might think

When you’re struggling with the pain of neuropathy, you may feel alone. But it’s estimated that up to 30% of Americans will struggle with neuropathy in their lifetime. If you’re a diabetic, your risk is even higher. Almost three-quarters of people with diabetes develop peripheral neuropathy.

Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy

You have several different types of nerves in your body, and each nerve has a specific function. The symptoms you feel with peripheral neuropathy depend on which nerves are damaged. Common symptoms include:

What causes neuropathy?

There are many causes of peripheral neuropathy. Some conditions might be hereditary or caused by your genetics. Other causes of neuropathy result from behaviors or other things that happen to you after birth.

Here are a few of the conditions that might be causing your symptoms:

Diseases

The most common cause of neuropathy is diabetes. The high levels of sugar in your blood can damage the nerves so they don’t work as well as they did before your diagnosis. Liver disease, connective tissues disorders, kidney disease, and hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) can also cause neuropathy.

Injuries

If you’ve suffered an acute injury, you might be left with nerve damage that can cause neuropathy. This can happen after falls, automobile accidents, or broken bones. You might also suffer from neuropathy after repetitive motion injuries.

Infections or autoimmune disorders

Autoimmune disorders cause your immune system to attack healthy cells in your body by mistake. Some autoimmune diseases can attack your nervous system, leaving your nerves damaged so they don’t function normally. These conditions include lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and Guillain-Barre syndrome.

Certain bacterial or viral infections can attack the nerves as well, such as shingles, hepatitis C, Lyme disease, and Epstein-Barr virus.

Medications or dietary choices

All medicines have side effects. Some pills, particularly those used to treat cancer, can cause peripheral neuropathy. Drinking alcohol can also have a toxic effect on your nerves, putting you at a higher risk of developing this painful condition.

How to avoid neuropathy

If you know what condition caused your peripheral neuropathy, it’s essential that you learn to manage that disease. For example, if you have diabetes, you need to control your blood sugar levels to decrease the effects of peripheral neuropathy, or prevent it from becoming worse.

There are a few things you can do to prevent peripheral neuropathy or lessen the severity of your symptoms. Here are a few strategies you can try:

If you’re struggling with peripheral neuropathy and you want to get to the bottom of what’s causing your discomfort, give our office in Indianapolis, Indiana, a call. Or you can book an appointment online to meet with Dr. Joseph Kielur, DC.

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