Neuropathy affects about 8 percent of individuals over the age of 55. Your nervous system is composed of 2 parts: the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. The nerves of your peripheral nervous system transmit messages between your central nervous system, that is your brain and spinal cord, along with the rest of the body.
These nerves regulate a massive range of functions throughout the body, such as voluntary muscle movement, involving the motor nerves, involuntary organ action, through the autonomic nerves, and also the perception of stimuli, involving the sensory nerves. Peripheral neuropathy, which is often simply referred to as "neuropathy," is a state that happens when your nerves become damaged or injured, often times simply disrupted. It's estimated that neuropathy affects roughly 2.4 percent of the general populace and approximately 8 percent of people older than age 55. However, this quote doesn't include people affected by neuropathy caused by physical trauma to the nerves.
Types of Neuropathy
Neuropathy can affect any of the three types of peripheral nerves:
- Sensory nerves, which transmit messages from the sensory organs, such as the eyes, nose, etc., to your brain;
- Motor nerves, which track the conscious movement of your muscles; and
- Autonomic nerves, which regulate the involuntary functions of your own body.
Sometimes, neuropathy will only impact one nerve. This is medically referred to as mononeuropathy and instances of it include:
- Ulnar neuropathy, which affects the elbow;
- Radial neuropathy, which affects the arms;
- Peroneal neuropathy, which affects the knees;
- Femoral neuropathy, which affects the thighs; and
- Cervical neuropathy, which affects the neck.
Sometimes, two or more isolated nerves in separate regions of the body can become damaged, injured or disrupted, resulting in mononeuritis multiplex neuropathy. Most often, however, multiple peripheral nerves malfunction at the same time, a condition called polyneuropathy. According to the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke, or the NINDS, there are over 100 kinds of peripheral neuropathies.
Dr. Alex Jimenez's Insight
Neuropathy is medically defined as a disease or dysfunction of one or more peripheral nerves, accompanied by common symptoms of pain, weakness and numbness. The peripheral nerves are in charge of transmitting messages from the central nervous system, the brain and the spinal cord, to the rest of the body. Neuropathy can affect a wide array of nerves. It is also associated with numerous underlying medical conditions and it has been reported to affect approximately 20 million individuals in the United States alone. While physical trauma, infection or exposure to toxins can cause neuropathy, diabetes has been considered to be the most common cause for neuropathy.
Causes of Neuropathy
Neuropathies are often inherited from birth or they develop later in life. The most frequent inherited neuropathy is the neurological disease Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, which affects 1 in 2,500 people in the USA. Although healthcare professionals are sometimes not able to pinpoint the exact reason for an acquired neuropathy, medically referred to as idiopathic neuropathy, there are many known causes for them, including: systemic diseases, physical trauma, infectious diseases and autoimmune disorders.
A systemic disease is one which affects the whole body. The most frequent systemic cause behind peripheral neuropathy is diabetes, which can lead to chronically high blood glucose levels that harm nerves.
A number of other systemic issues can cause neuropathy, including:
- Kidney disorders, which permit high levels of nerve-damaging toxic chemicals to flow in the blood;
- Toxins from exposure to heavy metals, including arsenic, lead, mercury, and thallium;
- Certain drugs and/or medications, including anti-cancer medications, anticonvulsants, antivirals, and antibiotics;
- Chemical imbalances because of liver ailments;
- Hormonal diseases, including hyperthyroidism, which disturbs metabolic processes, potentially inducing cells and body parts to exert pressure on the nerves;
- Deficiencies in vitamins, such as E, B1 (thiamine), B6 (pyridoxine), B12, and niacin, that can be vital for healthy nerves;
- Alcohol abuse, which induces vitamin deficiencies and might also directly harm nerves;
- Cancers and tumors that exert damaging pressure on nerve fibers and pathways;
- Chronic inflammation, which can damage protective tissues around nerves, which makes them more vulnerable to compression or vulnerable to getting inflamed and swollen; and
- Blood diseases and blood vessel damage, which may damage or injure nerve tissue by decreasing the available oxygen supply.
Additionally, if a nerve suffers from isolated bodily injury, it can become damaged, resulting in neuropathy. Nerves may suffer a direct blow that severs, crushes, compresses, or stretching them, even to the point of detaching them from the spinal cord. Common causes for these injuries are automobile accidents, falls, and sports injuries.
Nerve damage can also arise from powerful pressure on a nerve, like from broken bones and poorly fitted casts. Prolonged pressure on a nerve can also cause neuropathy, as in carpal tunnel syndrome, which occurs when the median nerve at the wrist becomes pinched. Also, persistent physical stress could inflame muscles, tendons, and ligaments, placing substantial pressure on the nerves.
Numerous infections from bacteria and viruses can lead to neuropathy by attacking nerve tissues directly or indirectly, for instance:
- Epstein-Barr virus
- Lyme disease
In addition, various autoimmune disorders, in which the body's immune system attacks and destroys body tissue that is healthy, may result in nerve damage, including:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Guillain-Barré syndrome (acute inflammatory demyelinating neuropathy)
- Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy
- Sjogren's syndrome
Complications of Neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy may result in several complications, as a result of disease or its symptoms. Numbness from the ailment can allow you to be less vulnerable to temperatures and pain, making you more likely to suffer from burns and serious wounds. The lack of sensations in the feet, for instance, can make you more prone to developing infections from minor traumatic accidents, particularly for diabetics, who heal more slowly than other people, including foot ulcers and gangrene.
Furthermore, muscle atrophy may cause you to develop particular physical disfigurements, such as pes cavus, a condition marked by an abnormally high foot arch, and claw-like deformities in the feet and palms. The scope of our information is limited to chiropractic as well as to spinal injuries and conditions. To discuss the subject matter, please feel free to ask Dr. Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900 .
Curated by Dr. Alex Jimenez
Additional Topics: Sciatica
Sciatica is medically referred to as a collection of symptoms, rather than a single injury and/or condition. Symptoms of sciatic nerve pain, or sciatica, can vary in frequency and intensity, however, it is most commonly described as a sudden, sharp (knife-like) or electrical pain that radiates from the low back down the buttocks, hips, thighs and legs into the foot. Other symptoms of sciatica may include, tingling or burning sensations, numbness and weakness along the length of the sciatic nerve. Sciatica most frequently affects individuals between the ages of 30 and 50 years. It may often develop as a result of the degeneration of the spine due to age, however, the compression and irritation of the sciatic nerve caused by a bulging or herniated disc, among other spinal health issues, may also cause sciatic nerve pain.