The numbers surrounding the prevalence of peripheral neuropathy are tough to come by. As the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke points out, more than 20 million people are estimated to have some form of peripheral neuropathy, but this number may be much higher as the condition is both misunderstood and misdiagnosed.
At Summit Pain Alliance, our team of pain management specialists understands how to properly diagnose and treat peripheral neuropathy, but identifying the problem in the first place falls on you. To help you better recognize peripheral neuropathy, here are a few key signs to watch for.
Peripheral neuropathy 101
In the simplest of terms, peripheral neuropathy refers to nerve damage outside of your central nervous system. This damage can occur for many reasons, including:
- Autoimmune diseases
- Cancer treatments
When we refer to your peripheral nerves, it’s important to note that this involves an incredibly vast and complex system that encompasses three types of nerves:
These nerves are the ones you use to control your muscle movement.
Every time you feel something — whether it’s pain, a soft fabric, or a change in temperature — your sensory nerves are responsible for the sensation.
When it comes to functions that you don’t control, such as breathing or your heartbeat, these are controlled by your autonomic nerves.
With neuropathy, any of these nerve fibers can be involved, which dictates your symptoms to a large degree.
The main signs of peripheral neuropathy
In many cases of peripheral neuropathy, more than one type of nerve is affected. For example, if your motor and sensory nerves are affected, you may experience:
- Numbness or tingling in your extremities (arms and legs)
- Shooting pain in your extremities
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of balance and difficulty walking
- Sensitivity to touch
If your autonomic nerves are affected by neuropathy, you may encounter:
- Intolerance to heat
- Loss of bladder control
- Swings in blood pressure
- Either excessive sweating or lack of sweating
- Digestive issues
If you’re feeling any of the above symptoms, it’s important that you see us as soon as possible so that we can identify and remedy the problem. In most cases, peripheral neuropathy doesn’t go away on its own, and it can lead to much larger problems down the road, making intervention critical.
For expert diagnosis and treatment of your peripheral neuropathy, please contact one of our two locations in Santa Rosa or Petaluma, California, by phone or online to set up an appointment.