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What is peripheral neuropathy and why does it occur?

Peripheral neuropathy is a condition that is characterized primarily by pain and numbness in hands and feet, caused by some kind of the damage to the nerve. This damage may be a consequence of diabetes, infection, exposure to toxins or poisons, and various traumatic injuries. Besides these causes, it is possible to inherit this type of neuropathy, as well as to develop it due to the deficiency of some vitamin (particularly B or E), or due to the excessive consummation of alcohol. To what extent the condition can be treated also depends on the underlying cause and the possibility to treat and cure it. This means that in some cases; the symptoms may disappear for good, while in other cases, they can only be relieved with the help of medications or some kind of therapy.

Since the condition affects peripheral nervous system, it means that sensory, motor or autonomic nerves may be affected, which is why people suffering from it will probably experience extreme sensitivity to even very light touch, lack of coordination, weakness of muscles or even paralysis, as well as problems with bladder or bowel. However, the symptoms do vary from case to case, depending on the nerves that are damaged.

What types of peripheral neuropathy are there?

As for the types of peripheral neuropathy, they may be classified according to the cause, or according to the number of nerves affected. This means that mononeuropathy is a type of neuropathy in which only one nerve is damaged, while polyneuropathy refers to the type in which more than one peripheral nerve is damaged. The fact is that polyneuropathy is much more frequent than mononeuropathy. When the cause is the criterion, peripheral neuropathies can be classified as:

  • Idiopathic, when the cause of this condition is unknown and cannot be identified,
  • Diabetic or prediabetic, when it is caused by diabetes or prediabetes
  • Hereditary, when it is present at birth
  • Toxic, when it is a result of exposure to toxins, alcohol,
  • Inflammatory, when it is caused by various infectious diseases (such as Lyme disease, HIV/AIDS, herpes, or hepatitis), or autoimmune disorders (such as sarcoidosis, vasculitis, chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, Celiac disease)
  • Systemic or metabolic, when conditions such as kidney failure, or vitamin deficiency cause it.

There is also a number of other conditions and disorders that may result in peripheral neuropathy, among which are tumors, amyloidosis, carpal tunnel syndrome, Bell’s palsy. 

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