21 Mar I Have Neuropathy: Now What?
What Exactly is Neuropathy?
As the name suggests, neuropathy impacts the nervous system, and humans’ nervous system is divided into the central and peripheral systems. The job of the peripheral nervous system is to send messages between your brain/spinal cord and the rest of the body. Nerves are in charge of numerous bodily functions including motor nerves (voluntary movement), autonomic nerves (involuntary organ functions), and sensory nerves (stimuli perception).
“Neuropathy” is a shortening of “peripheral neuropathy” in the medical field. It occurs when these nerves are damaged or otherwise not functioning properly. Neuropathy is fairly common in older adults, affecting about eight percent of those 55+. It affects just 2.4 percent of younger people. However, these figures don’t take into account those suffering from neuropathy by physical trauma.
Nerves affected by Neuropathy
Within neuropathy, three kinds of peripheral nerves may be affected-the sensory, motor, and autonomic. A person might suffer from one, two, or all three types of peripheral nerve disruption or damage. When only one nerve is affected, it’s called mononeuropathy. Common places include the elbow, arm, knee, thigh, and neck. However, multiple peripheral nerve disruption/damage is much more common. It’s called polyneuropathy. In total, over 100 kinds of peripheral neuropathies exist.
A person might get neuropathy at birth or acquire it at any time in their life. Inherited neuropathy is usually Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. About one in 2,500 people in the U.S. have this disease. Your doctor may or may not be able to determine the cause of acquired neuropathy, but common causes include systemic or infectious diseases, autoimmune disorders, and physical trauma. One of the most common causes is diabetes, since high glucose levels may damage nerves.
Treatment Options for Neuropathy
No matter the cause or type of neuropathy, there’s no denying that nerve pain can be extremely uncomfortable and in some cases gets in the way of activities of daily living. Oftentimes, nerve pain is irreversible and irreparable, so patients need to find ways of managing their pain. Fortunately, long-term and non-addictive options are available such as radiofrequency ablation or spinal cord stimulation. Some patients find relief in epidural steroid injections or platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections. If you’ve been diagnosed with neuropathy, find out what options you have by calling Integrated Pain Consultants at 480-626-2552.