What causes neuropathy?
Neuropathy refers to a damaged, diseased, or dysfunctional nerve, which covers a large group of conditions. Of the different types of neuropathy, peripheral neuropathy is by far the most common.
Peripheral neuropathy develops from exposure to toxins and underlying health problems such as:
- Herniated discs
- Spinal stenosis
- Degenerative disc disease
- Kidney disease
- Peripheral artery disease
- Viral and bacterial infections
- Vitamin B12 deficiency
- Autoimmune diseases
Diabetes causes more cases of peripheral neuropathy than all other conditions. If you have diabetes, keeping your blood sugar within the normal range is the only way to stop neuropathy from getting worse.
What symptoms develop if I have neuropathy?
The symptoms you develop depend on which nerves are damaged:
- Sensory nerves - Sensory nerves carry information about pain, temperature, pressure, body position, and other senses from your body to your brain. When neuropathy affects the sensory nerves throughout your body, you have symptoms such as pain, tingling, burning, and numbness. However, a few specialized sensory nerves cause other symptoms. For example, the vestibular nerve relays sensory information that controls balance. If this nerve suffers damage or inflammation, you develop vertigo and dizziness.
- Motor nerves - Motor nerves deliver information from your brain to your muscles. Damaged motor nerves result in muscle-based symptoms such as cramps, weakness, and atrophy (muscle loss).
- Autonomic nerves - These nerves automatically control essential functions such as your heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, and breathing. As a result, damaged autonomic nerves cause many possible symptoms, from a rapid heart rate and nausea, to changes in body temperature and profuse sweating.
How is neuropathy treated?
Your provider at Ventura Neuroscience Center first determines if you have an underlying condition causing the neuropathy. If you do, your treatment begins by addressing that condition.
In most cases, treating the underlying problem gives the nerves time to heal and your neuropathy improves. Many patients need some combination of lifestyle changes, medications, and physical therapy.
In addition to taking care of the underlying condition, your provider also treats your symptoms so you can get relief from the pain or other problems. This part of your treatment may include structured exercise, medications, interventional therapies, or minimally invasive surgery.