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BLOG - Recognizing the Early Signs of Peripheral Neuropathy

Unlike your central nervous system, your peripheral nervous system runs outside of your brain and spinal cord. Your peripheral nerves can be further categorized as either somatic or autonomic nerves. 

When one of your peripheral nerves is damaged, it’s known as peripheral neuropathy. Pain, tingling, and even numbness are well-known symptoms of neuropathy, but those aren’t the only signs of this condition. Our neurology specialists at Ventura Neuroscience Center here in Oxnard, California, are experts at diagnosing and treating peripheral neuropathy. You don’t need to wait until the condition worsens before you seek medical treatment. 

Here are a few tips for learning to recognize the early signs of peripheral neuropathy. 

Early signs of peripheral neuropathy 

Neuropathy can develop as a result of diabetes, injuries, exposure to toxins, and other underlying health conditions, including cancer. The early signs of neuropathy vary depending on what type of peripheral nerve is damaged. 

Sensory nerves

Your sensory nerves relay one-way messages to your brain about various sensations. This includes information about pain, temperature, and pressure. If you’ve ever picked up a hot cup of coffee, it’s your sensory nerves that tell your brain that the cup is hot. If your sensory nerves are damaged, you might notice:

  • Pain
  • Numbness
  • Burning sensations
  • Pins and needles sensations 
  • Feeling like your hands or feet always fall asleep 

If a particular sensory nerve 一 your vestibular nerve 一 is damaged, you might also experience vertigo. 

If your sensory nerves are damaged, it can create dangerous situations for you. For example, if you were to touch a hot pan, you could burn yourself if your nerves weren’t able to tell your brain to move your hand because the pan was hot.

Motor nerves

Your motor nerves are involved in muscle movements, and if these nerves are damaged or become dysfunctional, your first symptoms might be muscle weakness, muscle loss, and cramping.

Autonomic nerves

Your autonomic nerves are involved in involuntary bodily processes, such as breathing, digestion, heart rate, and blood pressure. Autonomic peripheral neuropathy refers to nerve damage on one of these nerves. Early signs of autonomic peripheral neuropathy include a sudden drop in blood pressure when you stand up, urine retention, and constipation. 

What to do if you suspect you have peripheral neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy not only causes discomfort, but it can lead to unwanted complications. For example, if your foot is numb and you develop a sore, you might not realize at first. This can be particularly problematic for individuals with diabetes. Here at Link Neuroscience Institute, we create treatment plans based on what’s causing your neuropathy. That’s why our team also starts with a neurological exam and a review of your full medical history. 

 Your potential treatments include:

  • Managing underlying health conditions that contribute to nerve damage
  • Pain relievers, including oral medication and topical creams
  • Other medications (including anti-seizure medication which can help alleviate nerve pain)
  • Physical therapy
  • Interventional therapy
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
  • Minimally invasive surgery