Neuropathy: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Do you suffer from neuropathy? Do you know enough about the symptoms of neuropathy to even answer that question?

This article will help you learn what neuropathy is as well as help you identify its symptoms and possible ways to treat it.

What Is Neuropathy?

The National Cancer Institute, a property of the National Institute of Health, defines neuropathy (also known as peripheral neuropathy) as a “nerve problem that causes pain, numbness, tingling, swelling, or muscle weakness in different parts of the body.”

According to the National Cancer Institute, there are many reasons why a patient might develop neuropathy. We’ll discuss the different causes shortly, but just know that the causes can range from cancer to diabetes to physical injury.

According to the Center for Peripheral Neuropathy, which is housed at the University of Chicago, there are multiple kinds of neuropathy that one could develop. The different types of neuropathy include:

  • Idiopathic neuropathy
  • Pre-diabetic/diabetic neuropathy
  • Hereditary neuropathy
  • Toxic/Secondary to drugs neuropathy
  • Inflammatory neuropathy
  • Systemic/Metabolic neuropathy
  • Compression neuropathy
  • Bell’s Palsy

These categories of neuropathy can be further broken down into specific conditions. For example. lyme disease, HIV/AIDS, leprosy, and Celiac disease can all cause forms of inflammatory neuropathy. Additionally, tumors and carpal tunnel syndrome can both cause different forms of compression neuropathy.

Each type of neuropathy is going to look a little different from one another. The treatments will change slightly as well. But symptoms such as muscle weakness and tingling are going to be the same across neuropathy types.

Causes Of Neuropathy

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke go into greater detail regarding the causes of neuropathy. According to the NIH, who runs NINDS, there are 12 different possible causes of peripheral neuropathy.

These causes include:

  • Physical injury (trauma)
  • Diabetes
  • Vascular and blood problems
  • Systemic (body-wide) autoimmune diseases
  • Autoimmune diseases that attack the nerves
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Kidney and liver disorders
  • Nutritional or vitamin imbalances
  • Certain cancers and benign tumors
  • Chemotherapy drugs
  • Infections
  • Genetics

The NIH says that genetic neuropathy is very rare. According to them the symptoms of genetic neuropathy can be inherited at birth or they can appear at any point during the patient's life. This is known as de novo genetic neuropathy.

The NIH says that genetic neuropathy is very rare

Because there are so many different kinds of neuropathy that can be caused by many factors, diagnosing neuropathy can be difficult sometimes. Usually, a medical doctor will look at the patient’s medical history and then conduct physical, neurological, body fluid, and genetic tests before officially diagnosing him or her. It’s also possible that a doctor might recommend further testing take place in the form of autonomic testing or radiology imaging tests.

Once these tests are conducted, the doctor can make his or her official diagnosis. Afterward, the doctor will try to determine what is causing the neuropathy. Since so many things can cause neuropathy, sometimes neuropathy is considered the disease, and sometimes it’s the symptom of the diseases.

Your doctor will want to make sure that your neuropathy isn’t an early sign of something more serious.

Symptoms Of Neuropathy

Because of the great variability found in neuropathy, the symptoms can vary based on what caused the neuropathy as well as specifics about an individual’s case, According to Cedar-Sinai, the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy can range from tingling to numbness to burning pain to paralysis.

With this in mind, there are a lot of symptoms to look out for if you’re worried that you may have neuropathy.

According to Cedar-Sinai, the general symptoms of neuropathy include:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Cramps
  • Muscle twitching
  • Loss of muscle and bone
  • Changes in skin, hair, or nails
  • Numbness
  • Loss of sensation or feeling
  • Loss of balance
  • Loss of certain body functions
  • Emotional disturbances
  • Sleep disruption
  • Loss of pain or sensation
  • Inability to sweat
  • Heat intolerance
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Infection
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Digestive tract nerve damage
  • Trouble eating or swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Irregular heartbeat

Looking at this list, you’ll quickly see why it’s so hard to properly diagnose neuropathy. If you’ think that you have developed some form of neuropathy, be sure to schedule an appointment with a licensed, medical doctor so he or she can properly diagnose you.

The sooner you can get a proper, medical diagnosis, the sooner you can start treating your neuropathy and any related conditions that might be causing it. Your doctor will help you figure out which of the many neuropathy treatment options is best for you.

Neuropathy Treatment Options

Treatment options for neuropathy include nerve stimulation, plasma exchange, physical therapy, and acupuncture, according to the University of Connecticut Health’s Orthopedics & Sports Medicine department. It shouldn’t be surprising, however, that the treatment options for neuropathy are much more varied than they appear.

Treatment options for neuropathy include nerve stimulation, plasma exchange, physical therapy, and acupuncture

The Mayo Clinic goes into more details about the different kinds of treatment options that are available to patients with neuropathy. They even share certain home remedies that people have tried to treat their neuropathy.

According to the Mayo Clinic, medical treatment options include:

  • Pain relievers
  • Anti-seizure medications
  • Topical treatments
  • Antidepressants
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation
  • Plasma exchange
  • Intravenous immune globulin
  • Physical therapy
  • Surgery

Not every neuropathy treatment option listed here will work for every patient. A licensed medical doctor will be in the best position to determine which treatment will best help your case.

If you want to supplement your doctor’s treatment with some home remedies, the Mayo Clinic recommends that you:

  • Take extra care of your feet
  • Exercise
  • Quit smoking
  • Eat healthily
  • Avoid excessive alcohol
  • Monitor your blood glucose levels

The Mayo Clinic also says that some people seek alternative treatments such as acupuncture, alpha-lipoic acid, herbs, and certain amino acids to treat their neuropathy. No matter what you do, however, be sure to consult with your doctor first before radically changing your neuropathy treatment plan.

Manage Your Neuropathy And Get Help

Neuropathy can be an incredibly serious and debilitating disease. It can also be nearly harmless. The seriousness of a patient’s neuropathy will change on a case-by-case basis as well.

The seriousness of a patient’s neuropathy will change on a case-by-case basis as well

Neuropathy can be a tricky condition to treat so be sure that you talk with your doctor if you notice any of the symptoms of neuropathy begin to develop. It may take some trial and error to determine which neuropathy treatment plan works best for you.