Neuropathy is the name used to describe any damage that has occurred to nerves in your peripheral nervous system.
Our peripheral nerves are responsible for sending sensory messages to and from your brain and spinal cord through the central nervous system, to all the other areas of your body. They control the way we move and our motor coordination, as well as our sensation of touch, temperature and pain. A highly intricate network, it is delicate and can be damaged easily, leading to unpleasant symptoms for those affected by it.
This damage can occur as a result of several different factors and underlying conditions. It’s extremely common, and is estimated that 20 million people in the US suffer from it, as a result of a host of different contributing factors.
To find relief from symptoms you might experience in your hands and feet such as tingling, burning, numbness and shooting pains; it’s critical to identify the causes so you can effectively treat it.
What Causes Neuropathy?
Neuropathy is not considered a disease within itself, but rather a condition that presents itself as a result of a number of afflictions. Here, we explore some of the root causes of neuropathy.
Underlying Medical Conditions:
- Diabetes- The most common cause of peripheral neuropathy, it’s reported that 60-70% of patients with Diabetes experience nerve damage in their feet and struggle with painful burning sensations, that can further develop into more advanced issues if left untreated.
- Arthritis- Inflammation in blood vessels caused by arthritis, called vasculitis, can lead to neuropathy symptoms.
- Infections & Autoimmune Disorders- Damage to motor nerves can occur as a result of bacterial and viral infections like Shingles, Hepatitis B & C, HIV & kidney infections.
- Hypothyroidism- Fluid retention due to an underactive thyroid can result in swollen tissue placing excessive pressure on nerves.
- Tumors- When abnormal growths develop in the body, they can press on surrounding nerves, causing disrupted sensory messages.
- Excessive Consumption of Alcohol- Drinking too much alcohol can stifle the absorption and processing of essential nutrients in the body, and cause damage to nerve fibers through malnutrition.
- Certain Medications- The toxic effect of some medicines on fragile peripheral nerves can result in damage, notably chemotherapy drugs used to treat cancer patients.
- Injuries and Trauma- Peripheral nerve structures can sustain damage, or even be completely severed from sports injuries, falls or car accidents. Damage to sensory nerves can also occur from repeatedly applying excessive pressure to a localized area, such as in repetitive strain injuries.
- Vitamin Deficiencies- A diet lacking in key vitamins necessary for nerve health such as B group vitamins, vitamin E and niacin.
- Toxin Exposure- Ongoing exposure to heavy metals like mercury and lead, or to toxic compounds found in industrial chemicals.
- Smoking- The oxygen supply to your network of delicate nerves is significantly diminished from smoking, as it causes vascular disorders of the feet and legs, which can lead to potential amputation in advanced cases.
- Being Overweight & Having High Blood Pressure- Fatty deposits that build up on the inside of blood vessel walls can lead to a narrowing of the arteries, causing nerve damage and peripheral neuropathy.
Why Is it So Important to Address Issues that Cause Neuropathy?
Due to the nature of damaged nerves resulting in disrupted sensory messages being sent to your brain, it’s critical to address the issues that cause neuropathy.
When you suffer from Peripheral Neuropathy, these miswired nerves can send incorrect signals. While one side effect of this is experiencing unpleasant sensations and pain in your extremities- which affects our quality of life and overall comfort… Rather more alarmingly is the risk of what could happen if your nerves don’t alert your brain to something producing pain.
These sensory responses are in place to keep us safe and alert us to danger. They help us prevent severe burns and skin trauma by allowing our reflexes to quickly pull us away from hot surfaces and sharp objects inflicting injury to our skin. They send us throbbing pain and localized heat sensations to let us know that a wound is infected and requires medical attention- especially important if you suffer from diabetes. They provide us with feeling in our feet, allowing us to stabilize our body and avoid losing our balance and falling.
So, while addressing your neuropathy symptoms not only alleviates pain and tingling; it’s also critical to our wellbeing by keeping our sensations functioning properly to keep us safe.
In most cases, the secret to curing your neuropathy is as simple as addressing the key lifestyle adjustments that contribute to your symptoms, or by properly managing an underlying condition.
When we take care of the origin of our neuropathy, the neuropathy often resolves itself… It’s a win-win. You’ll be healthier and happier overall, with the added bonus of showing your unpleasant neuropathy symptoms the door.
Be happy, healthy and strong…
Jane | Slabway Wellness Contributor