Peripheral neuropathy is a disorder of the peripheral nerves. Peripheral nerves are the motor, sensory and autonomic nerves that connect the spinal cord to muscles, skin and internal organs. Usually, the hands and feet are affected causing weakness, numbness, tingling, and pain. The course of peripheral neuropathy varies. It can come and go, slowly progressing over many years. It can also become severe and debilitating. Peripheral neuropathy can often be controlled if diagnosed early.
Peripheral neuropathy is common. Approximately 20 million Americans suffer from this illness. It is more common among older adults but can occur at any age. 15% of Americans over 40 are affected by this condition.
- Burning in your hands and feet
- Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
- Pins and Needles in your hands or feet
- Diabetic Nerve Pain
Approximately 30% of neuropathies are of an unknown cause or “idiopathic.” In approximately 30% of cases, diabetes is the cause. Other causes of neuropathy include autoimmune disorders, tumors, heredity, nutritional imbalances, infections, chemotherapy, alcoholism or toxins.
Some types of peripheral neuropathy can be cured. However, this is uncommon. Fortunately, many types of peripheral neuropathy can be helped. The goal is to treat the underlying disease and to improve the symptoms with proper medications. An experienced neurologist or pain management specialist can assist patients in improving their symptoms and quality of life. It is vital to get to an experienced healthcare practitioner when you notice the symptoms so the disease does not progress to the point of becoming irreversible.
Refer to Peripheral Neuropathy for more details.
Jose Veliz MD is the medical director of Palomar Spine & Pain, in Escondido, CA (North San Diego County).