Peripheral Neuropathy Symptoms
What is Peripheral Neuropathy?
Peripheral Neuropathy is a dysfunction of the nerves that are outside of the central nervous system, or the brain and spinal cord. Peripheral Neuropathy can cause weakness, numbness, and pain, usually in the hands and feet (Mayo Clinic).
What Causes Peripheral Neuropathy?
There are many different conditions that can lead to dysfunction in the peripheral nerves. The most common cause in the western world is Diabetes. It can also be caused by some medications or other health conditions (nhs.uk).
What are the Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy?
The symptoms of peripheral neuropathy can vary depending on which nerves are affected. Nerves carry signals from your brain to your body or tell your brain about what's happening in your body. There are three main types of nerves that can be affected (Cleveland Clinic):
Sensory and Pain
If the motor nerves are affected by peripheral neuropathy, they can cause changes in how your muscles function. Motor nerves carry signals from your brain to your body telling your muscles how to function and work properly. In order to stay healthy, muscles need proper nerve supply. A loss of nerve supply can lead to a few main symptoms:
Muscle Weakness/Paralysis - If the nerves connecting the brain to a muscle are degenerating and dysfunctional, the muscle will not receive the messages from the brain as effectively. This condition can lead to muscle weakness or even complete paralysis. You may notice it is difficult to move your fingers or toes. Additionally, your ability to walk with smooth strides may be affected and you may experience something called foot drop. Although experiencing muscle weakness is most common in the hands and feet, it can affect other areas of your body as well such as the thighs and arms.
Muscle Atrophy - As previously discussed, muscles need nerve stimulation in order to be healthy and functional. If a muscle doesn't receive proper stimulation from the brain, the muscle can begin to atrophy, losing the actual muscle itself. This can lead to deformities because of the loss of the actual muscle mass and usually occurs in the hands, arms, feet, and legs.
Uncontrolled Muscle Spasms - Without the brain being able to properly communicate with the muscle via the nerves, the muscles are free to move on their own. Uncontrolled movements in the muscles can cause shaking and cramping, which can be painful.
In addition to the nerves carrying signals, instructions, and information from the brain to the muscles, nerves also carry information from the body back to the brain. The skin, for example, sends sensory information back to the brain to tell the brain about the world surrounding the body. If the nerves that carry this information are damaged, you can experience different sensations.
Numbness - Without the nerves connecting the skin to the brain, the skin won't be able to send any information back to the brain about what it is touching. When this occurs, we experience it as numbness. Experiencing numbness can make it difficult to hold objects in your hands and makes you prone to injuring your feet. If you accidentally step on something sharp, you won't feel it and are likely to cut your foot. Unfortunately, with most types of neuropathy, these wounds don't heal very well and can cause an infection that is so severe that it begins to affect the underlying bone. At this level of severity, there is little doctors can do and they may have to amputate parts or all of the foot.
Tingling or Electric Shocks - As the nerves degenerate, they often send random signals to the brain. This is a bit like the static you can hear on the radio. Though tingling and electric shocks can be uncomfortable, they are primarily a signal that your nerves are degenerating.
Pain - When the sensory nerves in the hands and feet degenerate, it causes dysregulation of pain signaling from the hands and feet. This can cause pain signals to be intensified or happen too easily. Imagine that you accidentally drop your toothbrush when you're getting ready in the morning and it hits your foot. Although it is normal to feel it, the weight of a toothbrush shouldn't be painful to drop on your foot. Because of the neuropathy, the pain is excruciating.
Clumsiness and Balance Issues - In addition to carrying information about what is touching the skin on your hands and feet, there is another very important role that sensory nerves play: they carry information about where your body is in space. This role, called proprioception, is determined by knowing where the joints of the body are located and how they are moving, as well as how each of the nerves are positioned in relation to each other. This information is critical for your ability to balance and for your brain to coordinate movements. With nerves that are degenerating, this information can't reach the brain leading to you not having a sense of where your feet, legs, hands, and arms are in the space around you. This can cause you to fall, bump into or drop things, and generally lose control of where your body is and how it is moving. This can be a dangerous effect of peripheral neuropathy because of the risk of falling.
Our autonomic nervous system controls most of the functions that we don't actively have to think about, like sweating or digesting our food. These functions are vital for our health and we wouldn't survive without them. Some autonomic functions are continually running while others are turned on or off depending on what your body needs. Symptoms of autonomic neuropathy can include:
Blood Pressure Changes - Your body, when it is functioning normally, automatically adjusts your blood pressure depending on what your levels of activity is. If, for example, you are walking up a flight of stairs, your blood pressure may increase because of the activity. If you lay down for sleep and your body relaxes, your blood pressure should get lower. When the nerves controlling your vessels and heart aren't functioning correctly, they don't control your blood pressure as effectively.
Sweating - Our Autonomic Nervous System controls our body temperature and uses both shivering and sweating as tools to raise or lower our body temperature. When we get too cold, our muscles begin to tremble, a process that heats up the muscle and warms the rest of our body. Similarly, when we get too warm, our autonomic nervous system will have our body release sweat on our skin. As the sweat dries, the evaporation cools the skin and lowers body temperature. When our autonomic nervous system is not functioning properly, we can notice that we sweat too much or not enough.
Sexual Dysfunction - When we become sexually aroused, both males and females experience a wide variety of changes in their physiology. Nearly all of these physiological changes are controlled by the autonomic nervous system. If your autonomic nervous system is not functioning properly, you might experience symptoms like vaginal dryness or erectile dysfunction.
Bowel and Bladder Control - As with the previously discussed symptoms, bowel and bladder control are both functions of your autonomic nervous system. If you find that you are experiencing urgency, frequent urination, or constipation/diarrhea, it could be caused by autonomic neuropathy.
Many, Many Others - The Autonomic Nervous System controls so many different functions in the body that neuropathy in the autonomic nerves can cause a plethora of different symptoms and conditions.
Our Peripheral Neuropathy Treatment
At Evolve Wellness Center, we take a non-invasive approach to treating peripheral neuropathy. Our methods have been proven to help 97% of patients see some improvement in their peripheral neuropathy symptoms. Peripheral Neuropathy can be caused by hundreds of conditions. Our treatment protocol has shown to be effective in treating nearly all of them.
Evolve Wellness Center offers free neuropathy screenings to see if you are a candidate for care in our office. Call us at (404) 985-6209 or email email@example.com to schedule.