Peripheral neuropathy is a very serious and potentially dangerous nerve issue that often develops gradually over time.
Under normal circumstances, the peripheral nervous system works as a messenger to send sensation signals (pain, pleasure, etc.) from your body to your brain. Your brain is then able to interpret these messages and, in turn, lets you know what is happening.
This is an important job. If you are in pain, you can then address whatever is causing it and avoid any potential harm to your body.
However, when peripheral neuropathy occurs, this becomes very difficult (even impossible at times). And that’s where things become dangerous. If the nerves have been damaged or destroyed by an underlying cause, you may begin to feel increasingly severe pain when there is nothing wrong or, even more disturbingly, not feel pain when there is a serious problem.
If you believe you may be developing peripheral neuropathy—even if the symptoms do not yet seem severe—it is critical you receive expert care and evaluation as soon as possible. Dr. Peyman Elison is a peripheral nerve expert, and a faculty member and past president of the Association for Extremity Nerve Surgeons (AENS). He and the team at Fixing Feet Institute are exceptionally well qualified to diagnose and treat your peripheral neuropathy and keep you as active, pain-free, and safe as possible.
What Are the Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy?
Symptoms often vary depending on location, severity, and the type of nerves that are being affected. Some of the most common signs of peripheral neuropathy include:
- Burning or tingling sensations
- Cramping or muscle tightness
- Nerve pain
It’s important to understand that neuropathy often develops slowly, and if left unaddressed tends to follow a typical pattern.
In the early stages, you might only feel occasional episodes of mild pain or tingling, then go weeks or even months between episodes. But over time, the pain becomes more severe and more constant. At its peak, neuropathy can be excruciating.
Then, once the nerves become sufficiently damaged, pain actually starts to decrease and is eventually replaced by numbness.
Numbness is, in fact, the most concerning of all peripheral neuropathy symptoms. Though you may be happy to be rid of pain, lacking sensation in your feet means that you are much more likely to develop serious wounds and injuries—ones that, left unchecked, could ultimately require amputation. If you can’t feel your feet, then you won’t be able to keep them safe from threatening objects and environments.
What Causes Peripheral Neuropathy?
The most common cause of nerve damage and neuropathy is unmanaged diabetes. Diabetes can wreak havoc on your body due to high blood sugar levels and high blood pressure. So it’s crucial to manage diabetes by keeping your blood sugar levels low and your weight in a healthy range.
However, diabetes is not the only cause of neuropathy. There are also other risk factors, including:
- Kidney disease
- Vitamin deficiency
- Chronic inflammation
Injury is another common cause of neuropathy, as well as heavy alcohol consumption (which acts as a toxin in your body and can completely destroy your nerves). Other reasons this condition develops include exposure to toxins, autoimmune diseases, and certain kinds of medication.
Sometimes, the root cause of nerve damage is unknown, and these are categorized as idiopathic.
How Is Peripheral Neuropathy Managed and Treated?
Our peripheral nerve expert will diagnose the severity and root causes of your peripheral neuropathy. Then, we will help you build a comprehensive plan that can help you slow or stop the progression of the nerve damage and restore as much nerve function as possible.
Lifestyle changes will be a foundational aspect of almost any comprehensive plan. This includes things like:
- Managing underlying conditions (e.g. diabetes)
- Eating a healthy diet
- Regular exercise (we may need to help you develop a routine that minimizes risk of foot injuries and wounds)
- Carefully inspecting your feet at least once per day, and calling us at the first sign of trouble
However, lifestyle changes alone may not be enough for those who have reached later stages of the disease. For these situations, our office provides further treatment options, including advanced techniques. This may include, but is not limited to:
- Electronic signal transfer (EST) therapy, which uses high-frequency electronic waves to stimulate nerve healing.
- Laser therapy, which uses light energy to help relieve pain and create a healing environment for the peripheral nerves.
- Therapeutic nerve blocks, in which anesthetic is injected directly into specific nerves causing severe pain in order to provide relief.
- Peripheral nerve surgery to decompress nerves that may be damaged due to pressure or obstruction by other structures.
As mentioned above, Dr. Peyman Elison is a peripheral nerve expert with extensive experience dealing with neuropathy. He can help you develop a treatment approach that best addresses your specific needs.
Find Expert Peripheral Neuropathy Care at Fixing Feet Institute
Neuropathy is a progressive condition and existing nerve damage can be extremely difficult to reverse. That does not mean your case of neuropathy is hopeless—we have managed to provide significant relief and a return to activity for many patients over the years.
However, it does mean you should delay seeking treatment! The earlier you commit to comprehensive treatment, the better your long-term outlook can be.