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Neuropathy is an overarching term for nerve diseases that occur in the peripheral nervous system or the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord. Your peripheral nervous system controls the nerves around your body, including sensory nerves that allow you to detect sensations such as pain and temperature, motor nerves that control muscle movement, and autonomic nerves that regulate bodily functions such as blood pressure and heart rate.

There are more than 100 types of peripheral neuropathy, each with varying causes and symptoms. With the right treatment, patients can find relief from the pain, numbness, and weakness caused by the disease.


Neuropathy Symptoms

Because neuropathy comes in many forms, it can be difficult to identify the source of the discomfort. Those who experience neuropathy may notice chronic pain that worsens over time or tingling, weakness, or numbness in a particular extremity (often beginning in the hands or feet). Other symptoms may include:

  • Sharp, jabbing, throbbing, or burning pain
  • Extreme sensitivity to touch
  • Lack of coordination and falling
  • Muscle weakness
  • Constipation, diarrhea, or incontinence due to digestive nerve damage
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting due to a loss of control of blood pressure
  • Trouble eating or swallowing
  • Irregular heartbeat or difficulty breathing, which can be life-threatening

If you or someone you know is showing signs of neuropathy, contact our office immediately. Neuropathy is irreversible; however, early detection and treatment are key.

Causes & Risk Factors

Neuropathy is fairly common, affecting nearly 20 million Americans. As we age, our risk for developing neuropathy rises — between 5 to 7 percent of people 45 and older have neuropathy. 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.

Neuropathy is a blanket term used to describe a wide array of symptoms and causes and is, therefore, difficult to prevent or to identify early on. However, it is generally understood that diabetics are disproportionately at higher risk of neuropathy, with 50% of diabetics experiencing neuropathic symptoms in their lifetime. Other possible causes of neuropathy include:

  • Alcohol abuse
  • Drug abuse
  • Medical drug use
  • Swelling and scar tissue resulting from surgery for traumatic injuries
  • Infections
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Vascular or circulation issues
  • Exposure to toxins

Due to the range of symptoms and causes which constitute a neuropathic illness, it is just as challenging to diagnose the associated risk factors as it is to pinpoint the exact causes of peripheral neuropathy.

Diagnosing Neuropathy

Depending on a patient’s symptoms and the degree to which they experience these symptoms, any number of examinations may be done to determine the direction in which we proceed. A typical diagnosis may involve:

  • A physical examination
  • Blood tests
  • Imaging tests
  • Nerve function tests
  • Electromyography

Another important aspect when diagnosing neuropathy is classifying the kind of neuropathy a patient has. There are four classification categories that we look for when determining a diagnosis and treatment plan:

Diabetic Neuropathies
Diabetes is one of the most common causes of peripheral neuropathy in the U.S and will occur in over 50 percent of diabetics. Symptoms are most common in the feet and legs, and neuropathy rates are highest for those who have had the disease for 25 years.

Idiopathic Compression Neuropathies
Approximately 30 to 40 percent of neuropathy cases are idiopathic, meaning no known cause. Just because the neuropathy is of an undetermined cause does not mean it cannot be treated. In fact, our expertise at The Institute for Advanced Reconstruction is in assessing complex cases and finding treatment solutions regardless of the cause.

Compression Neuropathies
Also known as entrapment neuropathy, and often referred to as a pinched nerve, this is the most common cause of mononeuropathy. Carpal tunnel syndrome is the most widely known compression neuropathy, followed by ulnar neuropathy at the elbow and compression of the peroneal nerve at the fibular head, which causes foot drop.

Drug-induced Neuropathy
In some people, medications may cause nerve damage that results in a loss of sensation or movement in part of the body. For example, neuropathy is a common side effect of chemotherapy. Peripheral neuropathy will often go away if the problematic drug is changed or discontinued or if the dose is reduced. In extreme cases, however, the nerve damage may be permanent.

Treatment Options for Neuropathic Illnesses

Nerve damage is the root cause of all neuropathic ailments. Conservative forms of treatment can offer patients relief. However, relief is temporary because these types of treatment mask symptoms rather than address the root cause. Conservative treatments may include:

  • Bracing or Splinting
  • Anti-Inflammatory Medication
  • Activity changes
  • Steroid injections
  • Physical therapy
  • Laser therapy

At the Institute for Advanced Reconstruction, we are committed to treating the root cause of your symptoms – the nerve damage itself. For this reason, we often recommend nerve decompression surgery, which can offer a long-term or even permanent solution to symptoms

Nerve Decompression Surgery
Nerve decompression surgery is a minimally-invasive procedure performed at The Institute for Advanced Reconstruction, and is proven to relieve the symptoms of neuropathy in 90% of the patients who elect to undergo the procedure. The goal of the procedure is to alleviate pressure on a nerve by surgically removing constricting bone or tissue, or surgically widening the canal to create more space around the nerve.

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