If you or someone you love has peripheral neuropathy, there is hope. We will explore this condition and what you can do to improve your condition. A key part of addressing your peripheral neuropathy is to understand it. It is estimated that 1 in 3 Americans will be affected at some point in their lives.
The nervous system is broken into two major parts; the central nervous system, which consists of your brain and spinal cord, and your peripheral nervous system, which is composed of all the nerves that go from your spinal cord to your arms, legs, and internal organs. If you have peripheral neuropathy in your feet and you step barefoot on hot pavement in the middle of summer, you might not feel it. Your brain doesn’t get the signal from the damaged nerves in your feet, and you end up with third-degree burns. Living with this issue is dangerous and serious.
The most common symptoms of peripheral neuropathy happen in the feet. Typically people first notice symptoms in the toes or balls of their feet. Symptoms can include:
Tingling, numbness, severe pain at night, burning sensations, inability to sense hot or cold, difficulty walking, muscle cramps, falling and increased risk of falling, and even losing the ability to move parts of the body.
70% of people who have type 2 diabetes will also develop peripheral neuropathy. High blood sugar decreases the amount of nitric oxide the body produces. Nitric oxide makes blood vessels open up wider (vasodilation) and increases blood flow to the nerves. If nitric oxide levels become too low in the blood vessels, it causes the blood vessels to constrict and decrease blood flow. This leads to hypoxia (decreased oxygen) which leads to nerve damage.
Some people ask, “I’m not a diabetic, so what’s causing my peripheral neuropathy.” The answer is prediabetes. What is a true shock for most people is that taking cholesterol-lowering medications can also cause peripheral neuropathy.
In next week’s blog, we will discover additional causes of peripheral neuropathy and what can be done to reverse it.