What Is Neuropathy? Types, Causes, & Treatment

Neuropathy, often known as diabetic Neuropathy, refers to the neuropathic pain that the patient/affected feels, as a result of nerve damage caused by diabetes.

Diabetic Neuropathy, as the name suggests, is something you develop if you have diabetes.

This happens because of the high blood sugar diabetic individuals have. Diabetic Neuropathy is of four major types. The condition usually starts with your limbs but is not limited to solely your arms or legs.

Types of Neuropathy

These are the four main types of Neuropathy:

Peripheral Neuropathy:

Peripheral Neuropathy generally indicates the network of nerves in your peripheral nervous system(outside of your brain and spine) that is affected. Light therapy can be a solution to this problem.

Focal Neuropathy:

It’s the single nerve damage to torso, head, and limbs. This particular Neuropathy is less frequent compared to the other ones on the list.

Autonomic Neuropathy:

The Autonomic Nervous System is something that controls the body’s homeostasis, which helps us maintain a stable temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. However, it’s responsible for many of our bodily functions with autonomic Neuropathy. Many of our body’s functions and systems get disrupted like sight, sex, excretion, etc., and can be taxing physically and mentally.

Proximal Neuropathy:

Aka Diabetic Amyotrophy can affect the upper legs, buttocks, and hips. It is also the second most common diabetic Neuropathy, and mostly affects the older population, and tends to get better over time.

Effects of Neuropathy

Neuropathy is not limited to the simple sensation of pain. Just like most conditions, the severity of neuropathy symptoms may vary from one affected individual to another.

Some of the more common signs and symptoms are as follows:

  • Lack of Feeling (numbness)
  • Prickling Feeling
  • Burning Sensation
  • Muscle Atrophy
  • Difficulty in using affected limbs
  • Infection in legs
  • Cramps & Spasms
  • Erectile Dysfunction
  • Vomiting, Constipation, Diarrhea, and other digestive issues
  • Varying Sensation
  • Fainting / Lightheadedness

Causes of Neuropathy

Neuropathy is a condition that can arise from a number of conditions, such as diabetes, chemotherapy, alcohol abuse, tumors & cysts, traumas that put pressure on nerves, autoimmune diseases, and infections.

How Does Neuropathy Affect Your Nerves?

Peripheral Neuropathy comes to play through the disruption of signals sent from the Central Nervous System to the Peripheral Nervous System (The entire nerve system, excluding the ones associated with the brain and spine).

In simpler terms, the array of nerves spanning throughout the human body is the network between your brain+spine and your body.

So when any form of neural damage disrupts that signal (PNS), specific reactions that the body would usually have, like reacting to pain, or feeling heat and cold through receptors, will not take place, as there is a communication gap between the brain and the PNS so that precise fundamental mechanisms are put to a stop.

How does this ‘signal’ between CNS and PNS get disrupted?

The signal that is sent by the CNS to the PNS gets:

  • Lost without communicating with the Peripheral Nervous System
  • The original message gets modified/altered
  • Altered by sending out the wrong signal

FACT:  Over 20 million Americans have Neuropathy.

Can Diabetic Neuropathy Be Reversed?

Since Neuropathy is nerve damage, recovery is unlikely, as nerve cells don’t regenerate. However, it is very much manageable.

A proper diet, self-care, along with the right meds, and a physician’s diagnosis, the condition can be somewhat in check.

There’s more to managing diabetic Neuropathy. For instance, eating high fiber diets, and healthy fat (like coconut and avocado oil), doing weekly aerobic exercises, and most importantly, taking insulin.

Pro Tip: Be as specific as you can to your Physician, so no symptom goes unnoticed.

The American Academy of Neurology laid out guidelines for meds to treat the pain that comes with diabetic Neuropathy as follows:

  • Lyrica (Pregabalin)
  • Neurontin (Gabapentin)
  • Effexor (Venlafaxine)
  • Amitriptyline
  • Cymbalta (Duloxetine)
  • Qutenza (Capsaicin)
  • Tylenol (Acetaminophen)
  • Advil (ibuprofen)

Possible Treatment

According to Mayoclinic, physicians may give the patient/affected a physical test to pinpoint the symptoms and prescribe meds accordingly.

Expect for medical tests to further pinpoint the magnitude of your diabetic Neuropathy. Some of the tests may include:

Nerve Conduction Test: The goal of this test is to estimate how fast the nerves in our limbs conduct electrical signals. The responsiveness will help the Physician come to a conclusion as to what to do next.

Sensory Test: The goal of a sensory test is to see the responsiveness of your nerves when exposed to vibrations and altering temperature.

Autonomic Test: The purpose of this test is fundamental- To find out how the patient’s blood pressure changes when subjected to a change in position. Another thing this test does is to figure out how the affected perspires.

Muscle Response Test: aka Electromyography. This method uses electrodes to stick it on the patient/affected skin to pick up the electrical activity of the tissues underneath the skin. The result is often represented on a visual display and even audible signal to get a clearer idea.

Filament Test: A very basic test to understand the skin sensation by being brushed with nylon fiber. The level of sensitivity left will help determine the level of damage.

Final Thoughts

As the condition is irreversible, what patients/affected can do is practice the basic health norms of diabetes, that we all know.

The goal is to ensure that the condition does not worsen and better the overall health to reduce some of the effects of diabetic Neuropathy.

Here’s a summary of what you can try:

  • Go to the doctor
  • Take meds
  • Abstinence from alcohol
  • Taking Insulin
  • Managing Diet accordingly

Practicing these healthy lifestyle changes can significantly alter the severity of diabetic Neuropathy.

The first step should always be to check with the doctor, with accurate information, so the doctor can minimize the damage and diagnose the exact condition for treatment.

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