Many elderly residents in our assisted living homes have Peripheral Neuropathy symptoms that make life miserable. Some of them describe the symptoms as a part of their body being on fire. And that feeling doesn’t go away. Peripheral Neuropathy seems to stick around.
What is Peripheral Neuropathy and What Causes It
Peripheral Neuropathy strikes as a result of nerve damage to any nerve that isn’t in the brain or spinal cord. That’s why it’s called ‘Peripheral’ Neuropathy. It’s for the nerves on the periphery of the nervous system. The damaged nerves send unpleasant signals back to the brain.
There are several conditions that lead to peripheral neuropathy symptoms, particularly in elderly people:
- Serious injuries
- Exposure to toxic material
- Genetic predisposition
- Metabolic issues
- Very strong (Fluoroquinolones) antibiotics
- Autoimmune diseases
- Tumors on your nerves or next to them which put pressure on them
- Bone marrow diseases
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Connective Tissue problems
- Vitamin deficiency such as Vitamins B1, B6, B12, E and Niacin (B3)
Sometimes Neuropathy symptoms start without being linked to something else.
Peripheral Neuropathy Symptoms
People who experience Peripheral Neuropathy symptoms often describe feeling of burning or stabbing pain. It may involve tingling as well. Other peripheral neuropathy symptoms depend on which nerves they affect.
There are three types of nerves in the human nervous system:
- Sensory nerves – As you would expect, these nerves let you know about sensory inputs such as pain, temperature, vibration and other feelings you notice through touch
- Autonomic nerves – Nerves that put certain body processes on autopilot. Like heart beating, sweating, blood pressure, digestion
- Motor nerves – they control your movements with the muscle and skeletal system
For sensory and motor nerve neuropathy symptoms, you might see the following:
- Pain – it could be sharp, jabbing or throbbing
- Unusual types of pain where you wouldn’t expect it – like your feet hurt when you put weight on them
- Lack of coordination – more than usual
- Muscle weakness
- A numb feeling in your hands and feet. The numbness gradually moves up your arms or legs
- Extreme skin sensitivity. Touching something may cause pain
- Feeling like you have clothes on when you don’t, especially in your hands and feet. Such as feeling like you have gloves or socks on when you don’t
- If you have neuropathy symptoms in your motor nerves, you may experience paralysis
The Autonomic neuropathy symptoms include:
- Changes in automatic functions in your body, such as bowel, bladder, digestive or blood pressure problems
- Dizziness or feeling lightheaded
- Sweat problems – either way too much sweat or no sweat at all
- Excessive sensitivity to heat
What To Do about Neuropathy Symptoms
Since Neuropathy symptoms usually occur due to some underlying condition, it makes sense to work on that underlying problem. Improving conditions like diabetes and alcoholism will also help mitigate the neuropathy.
Doctors can prescribe drugs that will numb some of the neuropathy symptoms, but they won’t fix the problem on their own.
Healthy lifestyle choices can also alleviate many of these underlying conditions. A healthy diet, and exercise can make a big difference.
For the motor neurons, repetitive motion injuries can hurt the nerves and cause Peripheral Neuropathy. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is an example. If you have a repetitive motion job, maybe talk to your company about how to change some of your tasks to improve the strain on the nerves.
Neuropathy is not much fun. And the underlying condition that usually causes neuropathy isn’t helping either. That’s why it’s worth working on your health to enjoy your life more.