Your body contains two nervous systems: the central nervous system, made up of your brain and spinal cord, and the peripheral nervous system, which connects the nerves from those areas to the rest of your body. The peripheral nerves send information about physical sensations, such as temperature or pain, from your body back to your brain.
Peripheral neuropathy occurs when the peripheral nerves are damaged or destroyed, interfering with their normal function. For example, they may prevent you from feeling your feet when you walk, leading to falls, or they may not send necessary pain signals — or even send pain signals when there’s no cause for pain — leading to injury.
Board-certified podiatrist and podiatric surgeon Dr. Elliot Perel and our team at Monroe Foot & Ankle Care understand how debilitating neuropathy can be, and how it can increase your risk of foot injury. That’s why we provide comprehensive treatment options for our patients who have peripheral neuropathy.
We also want you to understand the causes of neuropathy so you can get medical treatment before the situation becomes serious. Here’s what you need to know.
Common causes of neuropathy
Neuropathy has a number of common causes, with physical trauma to the nerves themselves being the most prevalent. Trauma includes everything from falls and car accidents to repetitive motion injuries, such as assembly line work and extensive typing. Repetitive motion puts pressure on the wrist’s median nerve, leading to carpal tunnel syndrome.
Another common cause is diabetes, where high blood sugar levels lead to nerve damage and symptoms that include numbness, pain, and a loss of sensation. The University of Chicago’s Center for Peripheral Neuropathy (UCCPN) indicates almost 60% percent of diabetics have some degree of nerve damage.
A number of other chronic diseases and environmental toxins may lead to peripheral nerve damage. These include:
- Kidney disorders: Toxins build up in the body, damaging nerves.
- Hypothyroidism: This leads to fluid retention, which puts pressure on surrounding nerve tissues.
- Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus: Chronic inflammation and pressure damage nerves and surrounding connective tissue.
- Vitamin deficiencies: E, B-1, B-6, and B-12 are essential to nerve health and function.
- Bacterial infections such as Lyme disease: These damage sensory nerves.
- Viral infections such as herpes simplex, varicella-zoster, HIV, and Epstein-Barr: These also damage sensory nerves.
- Heavy metal exposure such as lead and mercury can cause nerve damage.
Common symptoms of neuropathy
Symptoms vary from one person to another, but they may include one or more of the following:
- “Muffled” skin sensation
- Heat intolerance or an inability to detect temperature
- Sharp, jabbing pain
- Burning, shooting pain
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of balance or coordination
You may feel the sensations in the area of the damaged nerve, or they can radiate to other parts of the body.
Common treatments for neuropathy
Monroe Foot & Ankle Care offers a number of different treatments for neuropathy.
OTC medications are indicated only for mild cases of neuropathy. Some prescription antiepileptic medications can alleviate nerve pain, and some tricyclic antidepressants provide relief by interfering with chemical processes in your central nervous system that allow you to feel pain.
In addition, antidepressants such as the serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) duloxetine and the extended-release venlafaxine can ease neuropathic pain in diabetics. Since these medications all come with side effects, discuss the benefit-risk ratio with Dr. Perel before starting.
MLS laser therapy
The Multiwave Locked System (MLS) Therapy Laser has been FDA-approved. It uses multiple energy wavelengths to produce an efficient and simultaneous effect on pain, inflammation, and edema (swelling). The system has an efficacy rate of 85-90%.
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy uses your own platelets — one of the blood’s components — to help you heal and promote new cell growth. They’re taken from a routine blood draw, processed, then injected into the site of the damaged nerves to help regenerate tissue.
Stem cell therapy guides your body’s supply of undifferentiated cells (stem cells), or cells taken from amniotic tissue, into becoming the cells required to repair and regenerate diseased or damaged tissues, including the peripheral nerves.
If you’re dealing with pain or loss of feeling in your peripheral nerves, especially in your feet and toes, Monroe Foot & Ankle Care can help you get back on track. Call us or schedule an appointment online with us today.