What is Peripheral Neuropathy?
The nerves that connect our central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) to the rest of the body constitute our peripheral nervous system. Peripheral neuropathy means that the peripheral nervous system is damaged and cannot function properly. Nerve damage, especially in the feet and hands, is serious, because it can diminish your sensation of injury and infection. If left untreated, peripheral neuropathy can damage your bones and joints, or cause permanent loss of sensation, so contact our podiatry practice at the first signs of the disease.
Damage to the peripheral nerves can be either hereditary or acquired. Acquired causes include:
- Diabetes – a significant percentage of people with diabetes develop some kind of neuropathy
- Traumatic injury and pressure on nerves, e.g. car accident, prolonged repetitive actions like typing
- Certain infections and autoimmune diseases, e.g. Lyme disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus
- Alcoholism causes deficiencies in the B vitamins that are essential for nerve health
- Exposure to toxins like heavy metals and chemicals
The symptoms of peripheral neuropathy vary according to the type of nerve affected. Broadly speaking, there are three types of nerves in our bodies:
- Sensory nerves respond to pain, temperature, touch, etc.
- Motor nerves control muscle movement
- Autonomic nerves control blood pressure and heart rate, digestion, bladder, etc.
In general, the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy include:
- Stabbing or burning pain, weakness, tingling and numbness in the feet and hands which can spread upward into legs and arms
- Heightened sensitivity to touch
- Muscle spasms, twitching and cramps
- Poor coordination of muscles and reflexes, resulting in tripping and falling
- Autonomic nerve damage is signaled by problems with: changes in temperature, digestion, bowel and bladder control, blood pressure changes that can cause dizziness
Diagnosis and Treatment
Here at Advanced Foot Care Centers, our treatment goals for you are to manage the condition causing peripheral neuropathy, and relieve the symptoms. Our podiatrists will give you a comprehensive examination and, if necessary, order nerve function and imaging tests. Early diagnosis gives all of us a better chance of slowing or repairing the nerve damage, as well as treating any underlying serious disorder, so please contact us by phone or online appointment request at one of our six locations in Tennessee (Hixson and Chattanooga) and North Georgia (Ft. Oglethorpe and Dalton).