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Recognizing the Early Signs of Peripheral Neuropathy

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Your body contains hundreds of peripheral nerves that branch out from your central nervous system and stretch from your head to your toes. When damage occurs in your peripheral nerves, especially your sensory nerves, it’s called peripheral neuropathy, and you can be left with a wide range of uncomfortable symptoms.

Dr. Jeffrey Hall and the highly qualified team of pain management and addiction medicine specialists here at Spectrum Pain Clinics have extensive experience helping our patients with peripheral neuropathy find much-needed relief.

To help you better understand peripheral neuropathy and recognize the early signs, we’ve pulled together the following information.

Understanding the different nerve groups

The first thing to understand about neuropathy is that the problem can occur in different nerve groups, including:

  • Sensory nerves, which control sensations
  • Motor nerves, which control movement
  • Autonomic nerves, which control automatic function (think heart rate)

For the sake of this discussion, we’re going to focus on peripheral nerve damage that affects your sensory nerves, which is what leads to the uncomfortable side effects of peripheral neuropathy.

Common signs of peripheral neuropathy

When one of your peripheral sensory nerves is damaged, it can disrupt the signaling between the nerve and your central nervous system. This interruption in the communication lines in your nervous system can lead to:

  • Pain, which is often described as shooting, burning, or throbbing
  • Numbness
  • Tingling or pins and needles
  • Muscle weakness
  • Loss of coordination

In most cases, these symptoms develop in your arms, hands, legs, and feet. These symptoms often begin slowly and can become progressively worse the longer the problem goes untreated, which is why you should seek our help at the first signs of trouble.

The primary causes of peripheral neuropathy

Estimates say that between 25-30% of Americans will be affected by neuropathy and, by far, the leading cause is diabetes — 60-70% of people with diabetes develop nerve damage.

Outside of diabetes, cancer treatments like chemotherapy can also lead to nerve damage (30-40% of people who undergo chemotherapy develop neuropathy).

Rounding out the list of the most common causes of peripheral neuropathy are alcoholism, infections, direct trauma, and metabolic syndrome.

Treating peripheral neuropathy

Early intervention with peripheral neuropathy is critical for two very important reasons: First, and foremost, our goal is to relieve your symptoms to restore your quality of life. Second, as we mentioned, neuropathy is often progressive, and we want to halt or slow the damage.
Once we diagnose the underlying source of the problem, we work to mitigate that source, such as better controlling your blood sugar levels if you have diabetes.

To relieve your discomfort, we can turn to several interventional therapies, including:

  • Nerve blocks
  • Intrathecal pain pump
  • Spinal cord stimulation

If you suspect you may have peripheral neuropathy, please contact one of our two offices in Jackson or Cordova, Tennessee, for expert diagnosis and treatment.