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Peripheral Neuropathy

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by Wood D
 

Causes

Many health conditions can cause peripheral neuropathy. The damage may occur due to:
  • Trauma from nerve compression or inflammation
  • Certain medications, such as chemotherapy treatments for cancer
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Hereditary syndromes
  • Exposure to toxins and heavy metals, such as lead, mercury, or pesticides
  • Exposure to cold or radiation
  • Prolonged treatment in the intensive care unit
Health conditions that can damage peripheral nerves include:
 

Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options may include:

Treatment for the Underlying Illness or Exposure

Treating the underlying illness can decrease symptoms or make them go away. For instance, if it is caused by diabetes, controlling blood sugar levels may help. In some cases, neuropathy caused by medications or toxins is completely reversed when these substances are stopped or avoided. Correction of vitamin B12 deficiency often improves symptoms.

Physical Therapy

Certain exercises may help stretch shortened or contracted muscles and increase joint flexibility. In long-standing cases, splinting the joint may be required to protect and rest it, while maintaining proper alignment.
Orthotics, such as supports and braces, may help with:
  • Deformities
  • Balance issues
  • Muscle weakness
Maintaining physical activity is also important.

Medications

Prescription and over-the-counter pain medications are often used to ease discomfort.
Medications used to treat depression and prevent convulsions can relieve neuropathy symptoms.
For severe and potentially life-threatening cases, such as Guillain-Barre syndrome, treatment includes:
  • IV immunoglobulins
  • Plasmapheresis—done to exchange plasma in the blood

Other Therapies

These therapies are aimed at reducing symptoms:

Surgery

Surgery can relieve the pressure on nerves. For example, surgeons commonly release fibrous bands in the wrist to treat carpal tunnel syndrome.
 

Prevention

To help reduce your chance of getting peripheral neuropathy, take these steps:
 

RESOURCES

American Chronic Pain Association
http://www.theacpa.org

The Neuropathy Association
http://www.neuropathy.org

 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Diabetes Association
http://www.diabetes.ca

Health Canada
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

 

References


Baron R, Binder A, et al. Neuropathic pain: diagnosis, pathophysiological mechanisms, and treatment. Lancet Neurol. 2010;9(8):807-819.


Diabetic neuropathies: the nerve damage of diabetes. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health website. Available at: http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/neuropathies/index.aspx. Updated June 25, 2012. Accessed July 11, 2013.


Karlsson P, et al. Epidermal nerve fiber length density estimation using global spatial sampling in healthy subjects and neuropathy patients. J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 2013 Mar;72(3):186-93.


Peripheral neuropathy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated July 4, 2013. Accessed July 11, 2013.


12/20/2007 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php: 2007 safety alerts for drugs, biologics, medical devices, and dietary supplements: Carbamazepine (marketed as Carbatrol, Equetro, Tegretol and generics). Medwatch. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/medwatch/safety/2007/safety07.htm#carbamazepine.


10/5/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php: Feng Y, Schlösser FJ, Sumpio BE. The Semmes Weinstein monofilament examination as a screening tool for diabetic peripheral neuropathy. J Vasc Surg. 2009;50:675-682,682.

 

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