Neuropathy and Neuropathic Pain

Definition:
Neuropathy, also called neuropathic pain, is a complex condition that causes weakness, numbness, and pain in areas of the body that have experienced nerve and tissue damage. More often than not, this disease affects the hands and feet, but it can also develop in the legs and arms. Neuropathic pain may be caused by injuries, infections, and inherited diseases, but the most common source of neuropathy is diabetes mellitus. Symptoms of neuropathy often improve when the underlying cause is treated. A TriState Pain Institute physician may recommend a combination of interventional pain care options to treat the underlying condition and reduce pain caused by neuropathy.

Causes:
There are many health and environmental factors that increase your risk of developing neuropathy. Some of the most common causes of neuropathic pain include viral or bacterial infections like Lyme disease, shingles, and hepatitis C; exposure to toxic substances such as heavy metals or chemicals; trauma to the peripheral nerves; diabetes; and autoimmune diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and Sjogren's syndrome. Other causes may include alcoholism, certain medications, cancer, vitamin deficiencies, and inherited diseases. A family history of neuropathy may also increase your risk of developing the condition.

Symptoms:
There are three different kinds of nerves within the peripheral system: sensory, motor, and autonomic. Depending on the type of nerve that’s damaged, patients may begin to experience symptoms such as numbness, tingling, and sharp, jabbing pains in the feet and hands. Over time, these symptoms may progress and cause extreme sensitivity to touch, reduced coordination, muscle weakness, or partial paralysis. If the autonomic nerves are affected, patients may develop a heat intolerance and experience bowel, bladder or digestive problems. Lastly, changes in a patient’s blood pressure may also occur, resulting in dizziness and fatigue.

Treatments:
Treatment plans will be developed based on the cause of the patient’s neuropathy. If lifestyle factors such as drinking alcohol or being exposed to toxins led to the development of this condition, a TriState Pain Institute physician will probably recommend avoiding these substances, as well as undergoing treatment. If a patient’s diabetes caused their neuropathy, a provider at the clinic will likely coordinate care with the patient’s primary physician. Regardless, interventional pain care for neuropathic pain generally includes pain medication management, peripheral nerve blocks, percutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (PENS), and pain-relieving creams

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