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Peripheral Neuropathy

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Peripheral Neuropathy is characterised by damage to nerves in the extremities of the body, outside of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord).

SYMPTOMS

The symptoms of peripheral neuropathy vary depending on the types of nerves damaged, resulting in disruption of the nerves normal activity. Damage may occur to sensory neurones, motor neurones, autonomic neurones or single neurones. Symptoms of sensory neuropathy particularly involve the hands and feet, and include: pins and needles, numbness to a change of sensation such as temperature, and misconception of pain seen by no response to painful stimuli or a painful response to non-painful stimuli. Symptoms of motor neuropathy primarily impact the supplied muscles, and include muscle twitching, weakness, paralysis, and wasting. Autonomic neuropathy symptoms include diarrhoea or constipation, low blood pressure, increased heart rate, and bowel incontinence, amongst others. The symptoms of single-nerve neuropathy depend on the individual nerve affected, with carpal tunnel syndrome, characterised by pain and tingling in the fingers, being the most common type.

CAUSES

Peripheral neuropathy develops due to damaged nerves in body parts such as the hands, feet and arms.  Peripheral neuropathy often occurs secondary to other conditions, such as diabetes, vitamin B12 deficiency, viral infection, and liver and kidney disease, amongst others. A number of lifestyle factors are also associated with an increased risk of developing peripheral neuropathy including obesity, excessive and prolonged alcohol intake, age, and smoking.

TREATMENTS

If the peripheral neuropathy is being caused by an underlying condition, this condition should be treated in order to alleviate symptoms. For example, vitamin B12 deficiency may be treated with vitamin B12 replacement therapy. Other treatment options depend on the type of neuropathy, for example muscle weakness caused by motor neuropathy may require physiotherapy. Peripheral neuropathy can also cause nerve pain, and so certain medications may be taken to ease this pain.