Neuropathy is the impaired functioning of nerves often characterized by loss of sensation with severe pain and prickling in the limbs. It is also termed Peripheral Neuropathy as the intricate network of nerves in the human body is administered by the Peripheral Nervous System (PNS) which conducts and transfer impulses further to the Central Nervous System (CNS). The nerve damage can be acquired as well as genetic.
Neurologist Amir Shokrae, M.D, in an interview on "health matters with Dr.Larry Santora" described neuropathy as "degeneration of nerve fibers in the distal parts(longest portion) of the nerves in toes and fists and starts climbing up gradually over time."
The dysfunction proceeds in an inverted manner beginning at the toes and fingers then spreading throughout.
Neuropathy can produce hindrance in communication by affecting single nerve (mononeuropathy) or several nerves throughout the body (polyneuropathy), where the majority suffers from the latter.
Apart from the major symptoms, Neuropathy can also be identified by weakness, sensitivity to touch, trouble in coordination and balance, profuse sweating, and low blood pressure. However, the onset of symptoms varies from person to person.
Neuropathy has many causes including diabetes, alcoholism, HIV/AIDS, and exposure to toxins. According to The Foundation Of Peripheral Neuropathy, it is estimated that 30 million people suffer from some type of Peripheral Neuropathy, where 60-70% are suffering from Diabetes Peripheral Neuropathy (DPN).
Neuropathy is not a simple, singular disease. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, up to 100 types of Peripheral Neuropathy have been detected. Each type has a different prognosis and occurrence of symptoms. However, they all usually include degradation of motor, sensory and autonomic nerves.
As stated above, neuropathy may neither have the same cause nor appear similarly in every patient. The treatment for Neuropathy is also varied. Hereditary Neuropathic Disorders are incurable while acquired Neuropathy can be treated by medication based on the degree of pain, physiotherapy session to increase movement, variation of drugs with emotional support from family and friends.
Neuropathy is not always acquired or genetic. It can also be the consequence of chemotherapy. Dr. Susan Love, chief visionary officer of The Susan Love foundation explains that peripheral neuropathy can be the long term effect of chemotherapy for breast cancer in women.
among the various types of nerve damage, Idiopathic Neuropathy, as well as Guillian-Barré Syndrome, are unusual disorders. Idiopathic Neuropathy occurs without any visible reason. It usually affects people over 60 years old and disorients its victim with slow progression.
Whereas, Guillian-Barré Syndrome(GBS) is a rare disorder caused by the destruction of the myelin sheath (the protective covering of nerve cells) by the immune system of the body. GBS can have a sudden onset of symptoms and can occur to anyone, regardless of age or gender.
Apart from leading causes there are also various factors that can make you susceptible to Neuropathy. Autoimmune disorders, repetitive stress, vitamin deficiency, vascular problems, kidney and liver disorders are a few of uncommon but possible causes for Neuropathy.