More than 20 million Americans suffer from peripheral neuropathy, which is a condition that affects the nerves outside of your central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). Peripheral neuropathy is especially common among people with diabetes, but there are other causes, too.
At Berkower Pain & Spine Rehabilitation in Pembroke Pines, Florida, David Berkower, DO, has diagnosed and treated peripheral neuropathy in many patients. Here’s what he wants you to know about neuropathy, including its less-common causes.
The basics of peripheral neuropathy
Your peripheral nerves travel all over your body, transmitting chemical messages from your limbs, organs, and other tissues to your brain and back again via your spinal cord. Those messages help you feel pain, temperature changes, and other sensations, and they also help you move and control functions, such as digestion and breathing.
Each nerve comprises a central cell body attached to one or more “arms” called axons. Most axons are surrounded by a protective cover or sheath called myelin.
At the end of each axon are tiny extensions that transmit chemical nerve signals from one nerve to another. Other extensions, called dendrites, receive chemical messages from other nerve cells, creating a vast communication network throughout your body.
Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy can cause many symptoms, depending on which type of nerves are affected, the location of the affected nerves, the underlying cause, and other factors. Some common symptoms include:
- Electricity-like bursts of pain in your limbs or elsewhere
- Dull, throbbing aches
- Numbness, tingling, or burning sensations
- Problems with coordination or movement
- Issues with digestion, breathing, or other functions
- Problems with bowel or bladder function
Many people have polyneuropathy, a type of peripheral neuropathy that affects multiple nerves and can cause a variety of symptoms.
Less-common causes of peripheral neuropathy
Your peripheral nerves can be damaged in many ways. Remember, nerves signal using chemicals, and anything that disrupts the signaling process or damages the nerve pathway can wind up causing neuropathy.
Aside from diabetes, other causes of neuropathy include:
- Infections, including Lyme disease, HIV infection, and Epstein-Barr virus
- Injuries, including falls, car accident injuries, and sports injuries
- Problems with your spine or spine components
- Circulation problems
- Genetic disorders
- Autoimmune diseases, including lupus and rheumatoid arthritis
- Alcohol abuse or tobacco use
- Leading a sedentary lifestyle
- Occupational issues, such as overuse or repetitive use injuries
- Exposure to toxins, such as heavy metals or chemicals
- Vitamin deficiencies or excess levels of some vitamins
- Foods high in additives or metals
- Some medications
Because there are so many potential causes of neuropathy, it’s very important to review as much as you can about your lifestyle and medical history during your exam with Dr. Berkower.
Treating peripheral neuropathy
Your treatment depends on the underlying cause of your neuropathy. In addition to reviewing your medical and lifestyle histories, Dr. Berkower may recommend blood tests, diagnostic imaging, nerve testing, or other evaluations to help determine the cause and which nerves are affected.
When Dr. Berkower identifies a specific cause of your neuropathy symptoms, your treatment will focus on fixing that cause to relieve symptoms and, hopefully, allow your nerves to recover. If a specific cause can’t be identified, treatment primarily focuses on relieving symptoms so you can return to the activities you enjoy.
Often, treatments involve medication, injections, or minimally invasive surgery, combined with lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise.
Find out what’s causing your nerve symptoms
Regardless of what’s causing your nerve symptoms, Dr. Berkower can help you find a treatment that provides you relief. To learn more about peripheral neuropathy and your treatment options, call 954-430-9972 or book an appointment online with Berkower Pain & Spine Rehabilitation today.