Friday, January 21, 2011

Health Update: NEUROPATHY


There are more than 100 known types of peripheral neuropathy, each with its own characteristic symptoms, pattern of development, and prognosis.

Approximately 30% of peripheral neuropathy cases are linked to diabetes. Other common causes of neuropathy include autoimmune disorders, tumors, hereditary conditions, nutritional imbalances, infections or toxins. Another 30% of peripheral neuropathies are termed “idiopathic” when the cause is unknown.

Types of Neuropathy

    * Autonomic Neuropathy
    * Cancer-Related Neuropathies
    * Compressive Neuropathies
    * Diabetic Neuropathy
    * Drug-Induced and Toxic Neuropathy
    * G.I. and Nutrition-Related Neuropathies
    * Hereditary Neuropathies
    * Immune-Mediated and CIDP
    * Infectious Diseases and Neuropathy
    * Neuropathic Pain

Peripheral neuropathy symptoms and signs can vary in how they begin.  Some neuropathies come on suddenly; others gradually over many years. There are three types of peripheral nerves affected, and symptoms depend on these nerves and their location:

    Sensory Nerves:       Affect sensation
    Autonomic Nerves:   Affect internal organ functions
    Motor Nerves:          Affect muscles

Many types of peripheral neuropathy affect all three types of nerves to various degrees, but some affect only one or two.

Here are some peripheral neuropathy symptoms and warning signs as described by patients:

Weakness in the Arms or Legs

Legs: Usually caused by damage to the motor nerves, leg symptoms often include difficulty walking or running; a feeling of "heaviness" in your legs; finding it takes a lot of effort just to climb the stairs; stumbling or tiring easily.  Muscle cramps may be common.

Arms: In the arms, you may find it difficult to carry groceries, open jars, turn door knobs or take care of your personal grooming.  A common frustration is dropping things.

Numbness, Tingling and Pain
Sensory nerves, when damaged, can cause various symptoms. Early on, there may be spontaneous sensations, called paresthesias, which include numbness, tingling, pinching, sharp, deep stabs, electric shocks, or buzzing. These sensations are usually worse at night, and sometimes become painful and severe.

You may also experience unpleasant abnormal sensations when you touch something, sensations called dysesthesias because they are caused by stimuli.
Or, you may find yourself feeling nothing at all, in this case experiencing anesthesia, a lessening or absence of sensation.

Impaired Sense of Position
When you lose the ability to “sense” or feel your feet, you may find yourself being uncoordinated because when you walk because you are not sure about the placement of your feet.   Patients may find themselves walking differently without really knowing how or why they are doing so. Chances are they have either widened their style of walking (in an unconscious effort to keep their balance) or they may be dragging their feet.

“Glove and Stocking Sensation”
This phrase describes what doctors call a patient’s odd feeling of wearing stockings or gloves or slippers when, in fact, the patient’s hands and feet are completely bare.

Symptoms of Autonomic Damage
When it occurs, autonomic nerve damage can potentially cause: a drop in blood pressure and, consequently, dizziness when standing up; intestinal difficulties such as constipation or diarrhea; sexual dysfunction; thinning of the skin (with susceptibility to bruising and poor healing), and other symptoms.
If you or a loved one is experiencing any of these neuropathy symptoms, we encourage you to visit your physician as soon as possible and discuss your symptoms and your concerns.

Neuropathy Support Group:

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