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Peripheral Neuropathy Awareness Week

It is Peripheral Neuropathy Awareness Week. An estimated 30 million people in the United States alone experience symptoms of peripheral neuropathy, and even more people worldwide. And yet, it is still a secret disease.


What Causes Peripheral Neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathy is the manifestation of different conditions that can damage the peripheral nerves and is considered a neurological disorder rather than one distinct disease. Peripheral neuropathy may be either acquired or inherited.


Acquired PN

  • Systemic diseases including diabetes mellitus, kidney disorders, and vitamin deficiencies

  • Some drugs including chemotherapy and certain medications for HIV

  • Autoimmune diseases including Guillain- Barré Syndrome, and Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy

  • Exposure to toxic chemicalsn Alcoholism

Inherited PN

The most common inherited neuropathies are a group of genetic disorders referred to as Charcot- Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease. Symptoms of CMT depend on which form is inherited.


In some cases, however, even with extensive evaluation, the causes of peripheral neuropathy remain unknown— this is called idiopathic neuropathy.


3 types of Peripheral Nerves and the Associated Neuropathy Symptoms

MOTOR

Motor nerves send impulses from the brain and spinal cord to all muscles in the body. Motor nerve damage can lead to muscle weakness, difficulty walking or moving the arms, cramps and spasms.

SENSORY

Sensory nerves send messages in the other direction—from the periphery back to the spinal cord and the brain. Sensory nerve damage often results in tingling, numbness, pain, and sensitivity to touch.

AUTONOMIC

Autonomic nerves control involuntary or semi-voluntary functions, such as heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, and sweating. Autonomic nerve damage may result in difficulty swallowing, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, problems with urination, abnormal pupil size, and sexual dysfunction.


Treatments

There are many options available for treating peripheral neuropathy. The most effective ones address the underlying cause. Most often, the focus of treatment is on symptom control.


Some people are helped by:

  • Physical Therapy

  • Occupational Therapy

  • Well-balanced diet

  • Avoiding exposure to toxins

  • Exercise

  • Vitamin supplements

  • Limiting or avoiding alcohol

  • Prescription drugs

  • Complementary and integrative therapies


Coping Skills

Living with chronic pain or disability presents daily challenges. Below are a couple of suggestions that may make it easier for you to cope:

  • Engage with other patients in the PN community through patient conferences and support groups

  • Work with a counselor or physical/occupational therapist to construct a personalized daily routine


Source: The Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy

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