Symptoms     By Dr. Steven J. Dolgoff

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Dr. Steven J. Dolgoff Peripheral Neuropathy Explaining the the symptoms

Peripheral neuropathy refers to damage to the peripheral nervous system, which carries all messages to the brain. Peripheral nerves, when damaged, cannot carry, or carry distorted messages, to the brain from the extremities.

Symptoms may include numbness, itching, burning, paralysis, not sweating normally, impaired sexual function, blood pressure fluctuation and even organ failure. Each peripheral nerve has a significant function assigned to it and the problem crops up when these nerves are damaged.

Research shows that there are more than 100 types of peripheral neuropathies. Motor nerves control the muscular actions like walking and talking. Sensory nerves help recognize a gentle touch or a cut, and autonomic nerves control involuntary actions like breathing, heart beat and food digestion. Neuropathy may affect all three classifications, but in most cases it affects only one or two. Doctors make use of terms such as predominantly motor neuropathy or predominantly sensory neuropathy to express the patientís state.

Symptoms vary depending on the type of nerve that is damaged. If itís a motor nerve, weak muscles or painful cramps could result. If a sensory nerve is damaged, a patient may not able to experience touch, feel as if they are wearing a glove though they are not, be unable to recognize small shapes by touching, or become unable to stand when they have their eyes closed. If the damaged nerve is an autonomic nerve, then it can be life-threatening. Breathing could become difficult, heartbeat irregular; fainting when moving from sitting to standing could result. Gastrointestinal symptoms can be an adjunct to autonomic neuropathy, when nerves controlling intestinal muscles are damaged. It could result in constipation, diarrhea, or trouble eating and swallowing.

Causes for peripheral neuropathy include injury (e.g., Automobile accident), systemic diseases (e.g., Diabetes), viral or bacterial infections, and genetic conditions. Diagnosing peripheral neuropathy is difficult as the symptoms are capricious. The doctor must do a thorough physical examination, take the patientís history, and note the work environment, general activities etc. Treatments for peripheral neuropathy are in place but there is still no treatment for inherited neuropathy. In general, maintaining healthy habits like avoiding alcohol and quitting smoking is most important as these hamper the blood vessels that provide nutrients. Weight management, exercise, balanced diet, and eliminating vitamin deficiencies help prevent peripheral neuropathy

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