Under the Microscope with Neuropathy
Among the various afflictions of the body, neuropathy is one that can be a bit hard to identify and understand, particularly since the name makes one automatically associate it with a psychological disorder, namely, neurosis.
The only thing it has in common with neurosis is that both conditions affect the mind. Neurosis is a mental disease while neuropathy messes with the brain’s ability to process information received from the nerves. Neuropathy is, in essence, a disease that directly affects your motor skills.
Taking a Closer Look at Neuropathy
Neuropathy is an affliction of the nerves that can occur almost anywhere in the body (Duby, 2004). The body relies on the nerve endings that pick up messages and deliver them to the brain. Whether it is to pick up an object, to destroy harmful cells, to pump blood or to carry out any other function, the nerves and nerve endings in the body are essential to carry out that function.
In neuropathy, the nerves are damaged and are unable to carry the message from point A to Point B. This means that the brain does not always receive, read or react to the signal the nerves are giving. This, in turn, can greatly hamper the motor skills of a person and it can also make it difficult for them to run certain functions with ease.
For example: A person with neuropathy may suffer from bad vision, muscle spasms and be unable to properly use an arm or a leg. Neuropathy is not restricted to a particular set of nerves, which means that all the nerves in the body are susceptible to this condition.
To make it easier to work out a mode of treatment for it, neuropathy is often identified and classified on the basis of the location of the nerves it is affecting. Another way to identify the kind of neuropathy one is afflicted with is by identifying the cause. This has led to neuropathy being divided into the following types.
The Common and Different Types of Neuropathies
Because neuropathy is divided into different forms on the basis of the nerve damage that occurs, neuropathy can easily be identified into the following types (Christopher Gibbons, 2012).
Mononeuropathy occurs when there is damage restricted to only one nerve. Mononeuropathy can also occur due to the result of compression, entrapment or other form of trauma that can cause damage to a single nerve. One of the most common forms of mononeuropathy is radial nerve palsy as well as carpal tunnel syndrome. Based on the kind of damage that occurs, mononeuropathy is often connected with peripheral neuropathy.
Polyneuropathy relates to nerve damage, which is generalized and causes damage to various peripheral nerves. It can be a dangerous condition to handle, even leading to kidney and liver failure. An example of polyneuropathy is the Gullian-Barre Syndrome. While the condition is rare, it can be fatal since it attacks the immune system, leaving the body extremely vulnerable. It also attacks the spine, damaging the nerves that grow there. If not treated properly, it can result in death. Polyneuropathy is also connected with the occurrence of diabetic neuropathy.
Multiple neuropathy occurs when two or more nerves in the body are suffering from damage. This damage occurs to the nerves individually. Each nerve is affected individually and it is not uncommon for the pain to occur, causing a stabbing sensation. It can be difficult to differentiate it from polyneuropathy as the nerve damage that occurs is more or less in the same area. If multiple neuropathy occurs in more than one nerves in the damaged area, it is possible for it to be counted as polyneuropathy since it handles more generalized damage.
Peripheral neuropathy occurs when the nerves around the spinal cord and on the outer area of the brain. Nerves in the body’s extremities are also prone to this, including the nerves in the feet, toes, legs, hands, fingers and arms as well. This form of neuropathy is often associated with the development of diabetes as well. People who have jobs that focus on repetitive movements such as pottery makers, painters and more are at a higher risk of developing peripheral neuropathy. It is typical for people to lose all feeling in the damaged area due to nerve isolation.
Proximal neuropathy occurs when there is nerve damage of any kind around the lower torso of the body. Damage is usually restricted to the thighs, buttocks and the hips. It is characterized with difficulty in movement as well as shooting pains and burning sensations. A prime example of proximal neuropathy is sciatica. In this condition, a person often experiences difficulty in walking, standing and even sitting. It is common for sufferers to experience shooting pain down the afflicted leg as well as the lower back too.
Cranial neuropathy (Catalano, Sen, & Biller, 1995) occurs when the cranial nerves that are located in the cranial area of the face are damaged. The nerves that are susceptible to damage include the optic nerve and the auditory nerve. Once they are hurt, it can be rather difficult to correct the damage since these nerves deal with damage to the eyes and the ears. Cranial neuropathy is also connected with optic neuropathy. This is when the nerve damage that occurs happens to the optic nerve.
This can lead to impaired vision. Moreover, it is also connected with the occurrence of auditory neuropathy as well. Auditory neuropathy occurs when the nerves in the ear and the ear canal are damaged, hindering the ability for the hearer to process sounds, since the brain signals sent by them cannot be picked up correctly.
Autonomic neuropathy (Ewing DJ, 1980) relates to the damage to the nerves surrounding the involuntary nervous system. This means that your body will suddenly be exposed to an extremely higher risk of organ failure as it afflicts the nerves that control organ function. The autonomic nerves are responsible for keeping the body functions going. Since it handles the day-to-day function of the body, autonomic neuropathy can be fatal if it is not treated correctly. The autonomic nervous system is often connected with the heart, circulatory system, digestion, bowels, stomach, kidneys and more.
Focal neuropathy (A. Verma, June 1990) relates to when only one nerve in the body is damaged. For this reason, it is often connected with one particular nerve in certain areas of the body. Focal neuropathy is often only focused on the head, causing damage in the eyes. It also occurs on the torso and legs. It is often considered similar to mononeuropathy.
The Different Causes of Neuropathy
When it comes to identifying the kind of neuropathy that a person is suffering from, it is always necessary to identify the cause of it (Oleg, 2004). Oftentimes, the cause of these neuropathies can help to identify the kind of neuropathy that is occurring. Since there is never a hard and fast rule for neuropathy to occur, identifying the causes can be a bit tricky but the following causes are generally known to be linked. Neuropathies can occur due to a number of reasons such as:
Keep in mind that these are the most common causes of neuropathy. There can be other conditions that sprout up that can have neuropathy as one of the side effects. Luckily, once a person identifies it, they can easily get to work on the treatment to eliminate neuropathy in the body.
Signs of Neuropathy
Due to the fact that there are different types of neuropathy afflictions, a person can experience different signs and symptoms for each kind. The following is a detailed look at the signs and symptoms, one can experience.
(Mugdha Gore, 2005) In most cases, prolonged, untreated peripheral neuropathy can lead to the development of dysesthesia. This is a condition that affects the sensory system of the person. It can wreak havoc in the sense of touch and cause the following symptoms:
When only one group of nerves is suffering from damage, it can cause mononeuropathy. This can cause patients to experience the following symptoms in their body.
Experts have speculated that around 5% of all females and 3% of all males experience carpal tunnel syndrome. If a person already has diabetes, they tend to be at greater risk of suffering from this condition.
Autonomic neuropathy occurs when the autonomic system in the body is damaged. It has the following symptoms:
Generalized Symptoms of Neuropathy
When it comes to understanding neuropathy, you may not experience all the symptoms but the following are eight of the most common, generalized symptoms of neuropathy (Didier Bouhassiraa, 2007).
When the nerves in the sensory area are damaged, they can often cause erratic sensory outputs, including pain in the area of the damage. Many patients of neuropathy experience stabbing, sharp pains as well as burning sensations. They often describe it as a sensation, akin to a lightning bolt. In some cases, the nerve damage can cause the hands, legs and arms to become sensitive, causing excruciating pain, even because of the slightest touch. In some cases, it is possible for the person to even sleep without experiencing sharp pain when the foot comes in touch with the bedding.
Tingling and Numbness
Another common symptom is numbness in the area where the pain occurs. Numbness or a tingling sensation in the body can afflict the area that is suffering from nerve damage. While it doesn’t seem like numbness would be challenging, it does have its own set of cautions that one must keep an eye on. Numbness affects not only the ability of a person to feel pain but also deadens other sensations in the area.
For example: If a person has blisters and sores on their feet, they will be unaware that they need to be treated or if they have become infected. They also have a tendency to suffer from burns since the body does not have the sensory nerves available to detect the high temperatures. Similarly, they also have to pay attention to the environment and themselves as well, since this can help them to minimize the damage that occurs.
Another symptom that is caused by neuropathy is the loss of balance. Peripheral neuropathy in particular can cause this situation. This is usually accompanied with a sense of numbness and the situation is worsened if the numbness is felt in the feet. People who feel numb in the feet lose balance as they are unable to process the total BMI as well as successfully calculate the center of the pressure, mass and gravity as they move. You do all these things by instinct if you have healthy feet. Due to this, people were prone to experiencing loss of balance and difficulty in maintaining their balance.
Weakness and Twitches of Muscles
Weakness in the muscles occurs when the nerves that affect the muscles are damaged and cause difficulties and also make a huge impact on the motor skills of a person. Twitching in muscles can range from something light, to a persona experiencing depilating cramps. This involuntary twitching can also cause further damage since the nerves are intertwined with each other and they can create painful sensations as well. Weakened muscles do not only mean weakness in motor skills but also lead to development of weak reflexes and muscle atrophy as well. In severe cases, it can lead to muscle degeneration.
A person who has neuropathy may also experience dizziness and lightheadedness. This occurs when the nerves that help regulate blood pressure suddenly become damaged. The lack of blood can cause dizziness and lightheadedness, particularly due to sudden movements. For example: A person who goes from a sitting position to a standing one can easily suffer from dizziness since the sudden change in position might cause a sudden drop in their blood pressure. They might need a few minutes to realign themselves before they can proceed further.
Abnormalities in Sweating
When a person has developed autonomic neuropathy, they may experience abnormal body functions, including abnormal sweating. In this condition, the autonomic nerves are damaged and are unable to properly assess the needs of the body. A person may experience an abnormally large amount of sweating, particularly on the upper torso of their body. On the other hand, a similar situation may occur when a person experiences an inability to sweat. This can also result in causing excessively dry skin that is susceptible to damage.
Problems in Digestion
Another common symptom of neuropathy is that a person may have difficulty properly digesting their food. They might be experiencing slow digestion that could be leading them to experience diarrhea or they might be feeling constipated. Similarly, eating a meal might leave them feeling excessively bloated. They could also end up feeling extremely satiated and full after eating, even if it was a small amount of food.
Keep in mind that pain, numbness and tingling are the most common generalized symptoms that occur with almost all forms of neuropathy.