By Dr. Yeshwanth Paidimarri, Neurology
The central nervous system in the human body consists of the brain and the spine. The rest of the body is connected to this system through a network. This network is known as the peripheral nervous system. Any anomaly with this nervous system is referred to as peripheral neuropathy, also known as neuropathy. When a person suffers from an unusual condition associated with the nervous system, it can show some of the signs that may include numbness, weakness, and pain in hands and feet. It is estimated that about 25-30% of Americans suffer from such conditions that affect the nervous system.
Constituents of The Peripheral Nervous System-
The peripheral nervous system consists of Sensory nerves, Motor nerves, and Autonomic nerves. The sensory nerves carry the message from different sensory points to the brain through the spinal cord. So, these nerves basically tell the brain about the type of stimuli, i.e. hot or cold, loud or soft, pinching or soft, etc.
The motor nerves act differently. They carry the message from the brain to muscles. So, if the sensory nerve sensed a hot touch or loud noise, the motor nerve will tell the relevant muscle to move you away from such stimuli.
Autonomic nerves have an altogether function. They control different involuntary functions like digestion, breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, etc.
In people suffering from any unusual functioning of these nerves, it can affect the concerned part of the body, neuropathy, and may lead to different ailment.
Causes of Neuropathy-
Neuropathy may be precipitated by damage to nerve cells. When neurons get damaged, they cannot communicate with other neurons and this impedes the communication network. Neuropathy can affect just one type of nerve or a number of different nerves. So, the outcome of neuropathy can be different depending on the type or types of nerve damaged.
Risk Factors for Neuropathy-
There are many risk factors for neuropathy. However, the most common risk factor is diabetes. It is estimated that about 60-70% of people suffering from neuropathy had been suffering from diabetes. Nevertheless, there are many other risk factors for neuropathy too. These include:
- Alcoholism: People with alcoholism often have poor dietary choices. This can lead to vitamin deficiency and damage to the peripheral nervous system.
- Autoimmune Diseases: Autoimmune diseases are those where the body’s own defense attacks the body. This may precipitate different anomalies like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, necrotizing vasculitis, chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, etc.
- Exposure to Poison: Exposure to poisonous or toxic substances like chemicals or heavy metals can cause neuropathy.
- Medications: Certain medications like chemotherapy drugs can precipitate neuropathy.
- Infections: Certain bacterial or viral infections can also cause neuropathy. This includes shingles, Lyme disease, hepatitis C, Epstein-Barr virus, diphtheria, leprosy, HIV, etc.
- Inherited disorders: Certain inherited disorders can also cause neuropathy.
- Trauma: Traumatic events like falls, certain accidents, sports injuries, etc., can damage certain parts of the peripheral nervous system. If someone is using crutches or making some kind of repetitive motion like typing, it may put pressure on certain nerves and pain, tingling and other problems.
- Tumors: If tumors, malignant or benign, develop on nerves, they may put pressure on nerves. This can give rise to neuropathy.
- Vitamin Deficiencies: Deficiency in any of the constituents of the Vitamin B complex can expose nerves to neuropathy.
- Bone Marrow Disorders: Certain bone marrow disorders like lymphoma, amyloidosis, etc., can give rise to neuropathy.
- Other Diseases: If you are suffering from liver disease, kidney disease, or hypothyroidism, you may become exposed to neuropathy.
Neuropathy is the condition that affects the peripheral nervous system of the body. This condition hinders the normal functioning of the nervous system and can affect the daily functioning of the sufferer. Caused by various substances, it is commonly seen in people with diabetes. It is essential to cure this condition by the regular intervention of medical advice and keeping a healthy lifestyle. Moreover, it is most important to consult the doctor before taking any steps in improving this condition solely.