What is Peripheral Neuropathy?

Find out if the symptoms you are experiencing could be due to nerve damage.

Peripheral neuropathy is a problem that isn’t often talked about and yet over 20 million people in the US alone have some form of peripheral neuropathy, a condition that causes damage to the peripheral nervous system, a system that’s responsible for transmitting sensory messages from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body. Whether you or a loved one has just been diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy, our Phoenix podiatrist Dr. Michael Dershowitz is here to tell you more about it and the best ways to manage the condition.

What causes peripheral neuropathy?

There are two ways in which peripheral neuropathy occurs. It may be genetic (meaning that it’s inherited) or it’s something that was acquired over time due to an accident or health problem.

Some causes include:

Physical trauma: This could be everything from a sports-related injury to a car accident, which can compress or overstretch the nerves and lead to nerve damage.

Health problems: There are a variety of conditions and disorders that can also increase your chances of developing peripheral neuropathy such as kidney disorders, certain autoimmune, endocrine and metabolic (e.g. diabetes) disorders, cancer or infections (e.g. Lyme disease; Epstein-Barr virus).

Toxin exposure: Whether your job involves working among a lot of environmental or industrial toxins or you are a heavy drinker, any long-term or intense exposure to certain toxins could lead to peripheral neuropathy.

What are the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy?

Not all symptoms will be the same for everyone with peripheral neuropathy. Some people may experience muscle twitching, muscle weakness, difficulty walking or the inability to walk, a loss of sensation, pain, tingling, numbness and muscle atrophy. These symptoms are more often felt in the feet and hands.

How is it treated?

While there are only a few kinds of peripheral neuropathy that can be completely cured, there are many treatment options out there to improve and manage your symptoms. In fact, some treatments we offer can actually help the damaged nerves regenerate. In order to support faster and more effective healing, our Phoenix foot doctor will offer up certain lifestyle modifications such as ample sleep, certain exercise routines, a healthy, balanced diet and quitting smoking if you are currently a smoker.

If you are experiencing mild to moderate foot pain, these symptoms can often be relieved through over-the-counter pain relievers; however, we can also recommend a variety of stronger prescription medications such as topical anesthetic patches, steroids and opioids.

Regular physical therapy and rehabilitation may also help you to rebuild strength while also improving your coordination and balance. Laser therapy is an effective treatment while also being painless and noninvasive. For more persistent cases, surgical decompression of nerves is also a treatment option available.

Whether you are experiencing symptoms of peripheral neuropathy or you are seeking effective treatment options, don’t hesitate to turn to our Phoenix and Glendale, AZ, foot care team at Southwest Foot Institute for the help you need to improve your quality of life.

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