Tingling, shooting pain, and numbness can all be symptoms of neuropathy. Although the term is most often associated with diabetes, neuropathy is actually a range of conditions that may or may not involve the body’s responses to severe or unmanaged diabetes.
What is neuropathy?
The Basics of Neuropathy
The term “neuropathy” is used to describe general diseases of the nerves and subsequent loss of sensation in the motor nerves. Neuropathy can be a result of both injury and medical conditions. There is no single origin of neuropathy, and the source of the illness typically determines the appropriate treatment or management of the condition.
The symptoms of neuropathy can differ between responsible conditions but most frequently include the following:
- Feeling pain in the extremities without a clear source
- Tingling or numbness in the arms, legs, hands, and feet
- Decreased sensation in sensory nerves
- Sudden onset Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Sensitivity to touch
- Decreased coordination
- Blood pressure changes
- Decreased temperature regulation
Each of these symptoms can cause severe pain and discomfort. People with diabetes and other conditions leading to nerve damage may feel fear or confusion in response to these sensations and may not recognize the link between symptoms, such as high blood sugar levels, and their peripheral nervous system.
The Causes of Neuropathy
There are many different causes of neuropathy. Our office has compiled the most significant sources of neuropathy below.
Diabetes and Diabetic Neuropathy
The most common type of neuropathy is diabetes-associated neuropathy, or diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Age and diabetes duration increases the risk of developing neuropathy.
Although it can occur in younger populations, neuropathy is more common in people who have had diabetes for decades. Uncontrolled diabetes (diabetes with consistently high blood sugar), being overweight, hypertension, and elevated blood lipids are also risk factors for the onset of neuropathy.
Vitamin Deficiencies and Peripheral Neuropathy
Vitamin deficiencies, including B12, folate, and other B vitamin losses can all cause damage to the nerves in the brain and spinal cord. Over time, this leads to damage to the peripheral nerves.
Rheumatoid arthritis, Guillain-Barre syndrome, and systemic lupus can all be responsible for the development of neuropathy. Nerves are affected in these conditions, which can eventually lead to the symptoms of neuropathy.
Infections have also been linked to neuropathy development. Lyme disease, leprosy, and syphilis can all lead to nerve damage. These conditions are the result of a bacterial infection that hides easily in the body and attacks a variety of bodily systems. This includes the body’s central nervous system and is usually diagnosed via a series of blood tests.
Postherpetic Neuralgia is a form of neuropathy that happens in response to shingles complications. Like the cleverly hidden bacteria associated with Lyme disease, the virus associated with shingles can hide out in the body. Eventually, it can target the body’s nerves, including motor and autonomic nerves.
As the name suggests, alcoholic neuropathy occurs in response to alcohol consumption. Infrequent or moderated consumption of alcohol does not cause neuropathy. Instead, alcoholic neuropathy is the result of excessive consumption and the subsequent nutritional and vitamin deficiencies that are the result of alcohol consumption.
Genetic or Inherited Disorders
Friedreich’s Ataxia and Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease are two genetic, inherited disorders that attack the nervous system. In response to nervous system attacks, neuropathy can occur. These conditions are accompanied by additional nervous system symptoms.
In Amyloidosis, abnormal protein fibers are generated and deposited throughout the body. These proteins build up over time, leading to impaired functions in a large portion of the body’s blood vessels and organs. The nervous system can also be negatively affected by these proteins, leading to neuropathy.
Uremia is a condition characterized by impaired kidney function. In Uremia, waste material accumulates in the blood because the kidneys are unable to remove waste effectively. Waste material can impair nerve function.
Toxins and Poisons
Toxins and poisons can also be the root cause of neuropathy. Gold compounds, arsenic, lead, mercury, and other metals can lead to neuropathy. Industrial solvents, nitrous oxide, and certain pesticides can also cause nerve damage. With consistent exposure, neuropathy may develop.
Drugs or Medication
Certain drugs and medications can lead to nerve damage. Cancer therapy drugs and some antibiotics can lead to neuropathy development. Once treatment has concluded, neuropathy may ease. Some medications may be traded for other interventions that do not yield as many unpleasant side effects.
Discussing side effects with your doctor is an important part of finding the treatment regimen that is right for you.
Nerve trauma, decreased blood flow to nerves, and prolonged pressure can all lead to long-term nerve damage. Without treatment or relief, symptoms of neuropathy may arise. Trauma and injury to the body can result in temporary or long-term nerve damage. The exact nature of the injury will inform how long healing takes and the steps required to experience relief.
Tumors can be responsible for the development of neuropathy. When benign tumors develop on nerves or nearby structures, nerve connections may be invaded and experience undue pressure. Pressure can cause nerves to stop functioning. When neuropathy is caused by tumors, the issue is not usually resolved until the tumor has been treated or removed.
The term “idiopathic” is used to describe any disease that is present without an identifiable cause. This type of neuropathy develops without a clear reason and persists despite the absence of a visible or diagnosed injury or illness. Neuropathy of this nature can feel particularly difficult to deal with. Even if the exact cause is not known, there are effective ways to treat symptoms of neuropathy and the complications that can occur alongside nerve damage.
Neuropathy can be extremely difficult to deal with. As an invisible disability with roots that are difficult to determine, neuropathy can cause a great deal of emotional suffering in addition to physical pain and discomfort. To learn more about diagnosing and treating neuropathy in Rock Hill, SC, and Charlotte, NC, schedule an appointment with our office today!