Also known as peripheral neuritis, it is the dysfunction of the peripheral nervous system by nerve damage. It can be the result of the underlying disease and also the diseases affecting the nerves. It produces symptoms depending upon affected nerve. They can be sensory, autonomic or motor changes. The main symptom is the numb feet with tingling and can also cause weakness, coordination problems, pain, burning and invisible ‘glove-like’ sensation and abnormal heart rate, reduced sweating and sexual problems.
Peripheral neuropathy can be classified into more than 100 forms and produces different set of symptoms and have different prognosis. Motor, sensory and autonomic nerves damage can occur. If the motor nerves are affected then imbalance occurs in the coordination of walking, holding things and other voluntary muscle movements. Damage in sensory nerves results in the loss of sensations like touching or pain whereas autonomic nerves affect the involuntary nerves controlling vital organs.
Four types depending upon number of nerve damage and the nerve cells are autonomic neuropathy, mononeuropathy, mononeuritis multiplex and polyneuropathy. When only one nerve is affected then it is called as mononeuropathy. It can be caused by compression to the nerve, carpel tunnel syndrome or some infection and nerve inflammation causing tingling feet.
Mononeuritis multiplex occurs when multiple nerves are damaged here and there in the body due to diabetes mellitus (diabetic neuropathy), Churg-Strauss syndrome, HIV, amyloidosis and rheumatoid arthritis. It is present with dull pain in legs and back mostly at night. Diabetics may have severe pain in thigh of either side with weakness and knee reflex absence.
Polyneuropathy affects nerve cells anywhere in the body irrespective of the nerve path. It can cause changes in axon, neurons cell bodies and myelin sheath surrounding axons. Distal axonopathy is the condition affecting only the axons with intact neurons. In sensory neuronopathy and motor neuron disease sensory and motor neurons are affected respectively. Polyneuropathy attacks organs on either side. It produces symptoms such as numb feet, burning, erectile dysfunction and imbalance in bladder function. This neuropathy treatment involves three steps. It starts with removing the cause, then strengthening muscles and their function and in the last pain relief by using neuropathy creams containing capsaicin.
The fourth pattern in the peripheral type of neuropathy is the autonomic neuropathy causing alterations in the autonomic nervous system. It affects the non-involuntary nerves reaching urinary bladder, digestive system, sexual organs and heart. Chronic diabetes patients are more prone to this neuropathy. Autonomic neuropathy is present in combination with other neuropathies. It produces symptoms such as incontinence of urine, pain in abdomen with vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, tachycardia, hypotension and impotency.
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