Nearly 20 million Americans suffer from neuropathy (neuro=related to the nerves; pathy=disease), a chronic condition that results from damage to or compression of the nerves outside the spinal cord and brain. Also referred to as peripheral neuropathy, the disorder can manifest in different forms, such as mononeuropathy when only one nerve is affected, or as polyneuropathy when many nerves are involved, often symmetrically, on both sides of the body. Symptoms include pain, numbness, tingling and weakness of the affected extremity.
The peripheral nervous system is a network of 43 pairs of motor and sensory nerves that connect the brain and spinal cord (the central nervous system) to the entire human body. These nerves control the functions of sensation, movement and motor coordination.
The peripheral nervous system sends messages from the brain and spinal cord to the arms and hands, legs and feet, internal organs, joints and even the mouth, eyes, ears, nose, and skin. Peripheral nerves also relay information back to the spinal cord and brain from the skin, joints and other organs. Peripheral neuropathy occurs when these nerves are damaged or destroyed, resulting in a variety of symptoms.
Three main types of nerves can be involved in peripheral neuropathy. Impaired function and other symptoms depend on which of the three types of nerves are damaged: motor, sensory, autonomic or a combination of any of those three.
Neuropathy is not a single disease. Instead, it is a complication found in a number of different underlying medical conditions. More than 100 types of peripheral neuropathy have been identified, each with its own particular set of symptoms, pattern of development and prognosis.
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In one such study from 2005, conducted at Division of Neurosurgery, Department of Surgery, University of Arizona, Tucson, researchers followed outcomes from 100 consecutive nerve decompression surgeries for neuropathy. The study concluded that decompression of compressed lower-extremity nerves improves sensation and decreases pain, and should be recommended for patients with neuropathy who have failed to improve with traditional medical treatment. (Source: **http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16166462)
Meet the Neuropathy Specialist
Dr. Michael Rose, Chief of the Division of Plastic Surgery at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, is an expert in reconstruction following cancer surgery or deforming accidents.
He is particularly skilled in complex nerve decompression surgery for people suffering from all forms of neuropathy, and is one of only a handful of plastic surgeons specifically trained in this technique.
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