Important Treatment Facts of Peripheral Neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy occurs as a result of nerve damage to your peripheral system. The nerves transmit information to and from the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) to the rest of the body (muscle, skin, and internal organs). Peripheral neuropathy is commonly seen in your hands and feet but may affect other parts of your body.
Diagnosing Peripheral Neuropathy
Depending on the nerve affected specific functions, signs, and symptoms are seen in peripheral neuropathy. The nerves are categorized into motor, sensory, and autonomic nerves. A motor nerve controls the movement of muscle, therefore, nerve damage will often cause muscle weakness. The function of sensory nerves is to receive sensation. If a sensory nerve is damaged temperature, pain, vibration, or touch can be impaired. The autonomic nerves regulate heart rate, blood pressure, bladder, and digestion. These damaged nerves lead to heat intolerance, altered sweating, loss of bladder control, dizziness, lightheadedness, intestinal muscle contractions, difficulty eating or swallowing.
The common sign and symptoms of peripheral neuropathy include the gradual onset of weakness, numbness, tingling, and pain in your feet or hands with the possibility of radiating up your legs and arms. You might also feel sharp, throbbing, freezing, burning, or stabbing pain. Extreme sensitivity to touch, muscle weakness, lack of coordination, paralysis may also occur in peripheral neuropathy.
The goal of your healthcare provider is to relieve your symptoms and manage peripheral neuropathy. You will be advised to seek therapy, take medications, and alternative treatment options to alleviate pain.
- Pain relievers. Commonly, over-the-counter (OTC) medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are recommended for mild-to-moderate symptoms. While opioids, such as tramadol or oxycodone, are often prescribed for more severe symptoms.
- Anti-seizure medications. Such as gabapentin and pregabalin treat epilepsy which may alleviate nerve pain.
- Topical treatments. Capsaicin cream, made from hot peppers, reduces neuropathy symptoms. Lidocaine patches are applied to your skin to also provide some relief.
- Antidepressants. Some tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline and doxepin disrupt the chemical process of the sensory neurons in the central nervous system. Pain is also reduced when taking serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor duloxetine and venlafaxine.
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). Mild electric current is delivered through the electrodes on the skin for 30 minutes to alleviate pain.
- Physical therapy. Helps strengthen any weak muscles and the need of any assisted devices.
- Plasma exchange and intravenous immune globulin. Suppresses the immune activity by removing blood, antibodies, and other proteins from the blood. Finally, the blood is returned to the body.
- Surgery. Helps remove the pressure on the nerves, such as a tumor.
The most promising alternative therapies include acupuncture, alpha-lipoic acid, herbs such as evening primrose oil, and amino acids such as acetyl-L-carnitine. Ask your healthcare provider for the benefits of these treatment options.