The peripheral nervous system is responsible for sending information from your spinal cord and brain to the rest of your body. When it becomes damaged due to injury, an infection, or inherited causes, peripheral neuropathy occurs, causing weakness, pain and numbness in the hands and feet. One of the more common causes of peripheral neuropathy is diabetes mellitus. People diagnosed with this condition report stabbing or burning pain, usually accompanied by tingling. If the peripheral neuropathy is produced by a treatable cause, symptoms can improve with medication and treatment.
Because the peripheral nervous system is comprised of a series of nerves that all have different functions in the body, symptoms will depend on what types of nerves are affected. Sensory nerves send and receive signals relating to skin sensations such as touch, temperature and pain; the autonomic nerves control blood pressure, digestion and bladder, and the motor nerves are responsible for all muscle movements.
Some of the more common symptoms of peripheral neuropathy are muscle weakness, lack of coordination, sensitivity to touch, burning, sharp, or jabbing pain, or a slow progression of tingling and numbness of hands and feet that may spread to your arms and legs. However, if the autonomic nerves are damaged, symptoms will include changes in blood pressure resulting in dizziness, problems with the bladder or digestion and heat intolerance.
Because the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy are caused by damage to nerve roots, your doctor will need to determine what underlying condition is causing the damage. Your doctor will take a full medical history, including asking about your lifestyle and family history. He will also perform a neurological exam to check your ability to feel specific sensations, your posture, muscle tone and strength, and tendon reflexes. Tests such as MRIs and skin or nerve biopsies may be used as well.
The main goal for treatment will be to manage the underlying cause of the peripheral neuropathy. Medications can include pain relievers, anti-seizure medications to help with nerve pain, and antidepressants which have been shown to relieve pain at the chemical level.
Your doctor may also recommend physical therapy to help strengthen muscles and orthotics or a walker if you are experiencing high levels of numbness. If the symptoms are being caused by a disc or tumor pressing down on the nerves, surgery can be utilized to open up the nerve pathways again.
If you have been experiencing pain, numbness, or tingling in your hands or feet, especially if you have diabetes, contact the doctors at Florida Spine Institute today to see if you are suffering from peripheral neuropathy. We can help create a personalized treatment plan for you.