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Peripheral Neuropathy

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Peripheral Neuropathy

Introduction

Damage can occur to the ‘peripheral’ nerves of the body – found in the extremities for example the hands, feet and arms. Peripheral nerves are in the network of nerves that lie outside the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord).

 

Peripheral nerves can be:

  • Sensory – transmit sensations such as pain, temperature and touch.
  • Motor – responsible for controlling muscles.
  • Autonomic – work to regulate automatic functions such as blood pressure, breathing and bladder function.

Symptoms

If these nerves become damaged they can result in symptoms including:

 

  • Pain, tingling or loss of sensation in the feet.
  • Loss of balance/coordination or weakness.
  • Wounds that do not heal well (especially of the feet).

Causes

The main cause of Peripheral Neuropathy is diabetes where high levels of sugar in the blood damage the tiny blood vessels that supply the peripheral nerves. Other causes include excessive alcohol consumption over years, Vitamin B12 insufficiency and physical damage to the nerves following trauma or surgery to name several.

 

Information on the various other other causes can be found by clicking here.

Treatment & Management

Treatments will depend on the cause of the symptoms and GP’s will be able to assist with this. For example, stabilising your diabetes and painkillers to treat neuropathic pain can be prescribed.

 

Physiotherapists can assist with the symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy by providing exercises to maximise muscle strength of weakened muscles. They can also provide advice and education regarding lifestyle adaptations and changes required, as well as walking aid recommendations and advice on orthotics – if appropriate.

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