The term Peripheral Neuropathy (PN) describes disorders of the peripheral nerves and is present in 10 to 20 million people in the US. Unfortunately, accurate and comprehensive information about PN is hard to find. It is known however that approximately 50% of diabetics will develop the condition and those using statin pills (cholesterol drugs) may also develop PN.
Definition of PN
It’s helpful to think of Peripheral Neuropathy in terms of damage to the nervous system rather than being a “disease or abnormality of the nervous system” which is the traditional definition of the term neuropathy. There are numerous causes such as Carpal Tunnel syndrome and herniated discs that cause the type of damage that leads to PN. A thorough and careful diagnosis is needed because of the multitude of symptoms that may or not be represented by Peripheral Neuropathy. For example, diabetes (as mentioned above) and its many symptoms often plays a role in PN
A closer look at Peripheral Neuropathy
The peripheral nervous system is made up of the nerves that branch out of the spinal cord to all parts of the body. These nerves (nerve cells) are made up of the cell body, axons, and dendrites (the nerve/muscle junction). Although any part of the nerve can be affected, damage to axons is most common. This is troublesome since axon transmits signals from nerve to nerve and nerve cell to muscle.
What are the symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy?
Symptoms of PN are defined in two groups, “negative” and “positive.” Initial damages are negative signs such as numbness, loss of strength and reflexes and other sensations. Unfortunately, these negative signs may go unnoticed because in many cases, the brain often compensates for the damage.
Positive signs (an unfortunate term) develop over time and appear later in the process. Symptoms such as burning or tingling and a variety of pains defined by patients as burning, biting, stabbing or shooting are signs of progressive damage. The inability of untrained doctors to interrupt these descriptions of pain often send the patient on a journey of trying to find relief for a condition (PN) that is overlooked and not properly diagnosed. This leads to unnecessary pain and suffering.
The course of Peripheral Neuropathy
While some neuropathies come on suddenly, others take years to develop and become problematic. And patients are affected in different ways. Some experience weakness in the arms and legs which legs, making it difficult to stand or even walk. For others, loss of sensation in the feet, ankles and toes contributes to the patient falling or stumbling. Some patients experience a tingling, pin-pricking sensation often followed by sharp stabbing pains and what they describe as “burning electric shocks.”
A professional and complete exam is the first step to treating the condition. We then develop a specialized treatment program to lessen symptoms, improve function and reduce pain. For the most part, our treatment program does not involve drugs as there is no proven drug-based treatment of PN.
If you would like to have more information or to set up a consultation and see how we can help you (or someone you know) deal with the effects of Peripheral Neuropathy, give us a call in Tampa 813.254.5200 to schedule an appointment.