What is Neuropathy?
Neuropathy is a common disorder that occurs when your peripheral nerves get damaged. These nerves are responsible for sending signals from your spinal cord to the rest of your body. When those nerves don't work, your body won't react the way it should.
Neuropathy is more common than you might think! It is estimated that more than 20 million people in our country are suffering with some sort of neuropathy. It typically affects older adults, but can strike at any age.
There are three broad types of neuropathy associated with diabetes: sensory, autonomic and motor: Sensory or peripheral neuropathy (usually just referred broadly as "neuropathy") affects the nerves that carry information to the brain about sensations from various parts of the body – how hot or cold something is, what the texture of something feels like, the pain caused by a sharp object or heat, etc.
Even though it seems like a “new” condition, peripheral neuropathy has been around for years, but just hadn’t been properly diagnosed until just recently. It is commonly misdiagnosed as just a side effect of other diseases like diabetes, cancer and kidney failure. Unfortunately, the development of treatments for neuropathy has been slow going.
According to the American Diabetes Association*, 60 to 70 percent of people with diabetes will develop neuropathy within their lifetime.
Some causes of neuropathy include:
- Certain Medications - Including some types of chemotherapy drugs.
- Heredity - Some people have a family history of peripheral neuropathy.
- Advanced Aging - Peripheral neuropathy is more common as people age.
- Arthritis - Certain type of arthritis can cause peripheral neuropathy.
- Alcoholism - According to the US National Library of Medicine, up to half of all long-term heavy alcohol users develop peripheral neuropathy.
- Neurological Disorders - Certain neurological disorders, including spina bifida and fibromyalgia, are associated with peripheral neuropathy.
- Injury - Acute injury to the peripheral nerves may also cause peripheral neuropathy.
Common neuropathy symptoms:
- Numbness in the extremities
- Electrical, “crawling” pain
- Restless legs
- Pins and needles
- Fatigue in the legs or feet
- Tingling or burning
- Cold hands or feet
- Shooting pains