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Peripheral Nerve Conditions

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What are Peripheral Nerve Conditions?

Peripheral nerve conditions are disorders caused by malfunctioning of the nerves due to peripheral nerve damage or destruction. The peripheral nervous system sends signals from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of your body. Any disruption in the normal functioning of the peripheral nervous system can result in numbness, pain and weakness in your hands and feet as well as other parts of your body.

Causes of Peripheral Nerve Conditions

Some of the common causes of peripheral nerve conditions include:

  • Diabetes
  • Alcoholism
  • Exposure to toxins
  • Certain medications
  • Inherited disorders
  • Traumatic injuries
  • Infections
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Bone marrow disorders
  • Tumours
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Metabolic problems

Symptoms of Peripheral Nerve Conditions

The peripheral nervous system is classified into sensory nerves, motor nerves, and autonomic nerves, and symptoms of peripheral nerve conditions typically depend on the function of the affected nerves. 

  • Sensory nerves communicate the sensation of touch, temperature, pain, etc.
  • Motor nerves control the movement of all muscles, such as those utilised for talking, grasping things, walking, etc.
  • Autonomic nerves control function such as blood pressure, digestion, breathing, heart rate, etc.

Some of the signs and symptoms of peripheral nerve conditions include:

  • Muscle cramping or twitching
  • Difficulty moving arms or walking
  • Abnormal pulse or blood pressure
  • Muscle weakness
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Loss of coordination and balance
  • Numbness, tingling, or prickling sensation in the fingers or toes
  • Burning, freezing, shooting, or throbbing-like pain
  • Unusual sweating

Diagnosis of Peripheral Nerve Conditions

To diagnose a peripheral nerve condition, your doctor will review your symptoms and medical history and perform a physical examination. While reviewing your medical history your doctor will investigate your symptoms, lifestyle, and family history of any peripheral nerve conditions. A neurological examination is performed to evaluate your reflexes, sensations, coordination, muscle strength and tone. Your doctor may order certain diagnostic tests such as:

  • Nerve conduction studies to check if the signals are being transmitted properly by the nerves
  • Blood tests to detect abnormal immune function, vitamin deficiencies, diabetes, and other indications
  • Imaging tests to look for tumours, herniated discs, or other abnormalities
  • Nerve biopsy where a sample of nerve tissue is obtained to look for abnormalities

Treatment for Peripheral Nerve Condition

Treatment goals would be to manage the underlying condition and relieve symptoms. Some of the commonly employed treatments include:

  • Over-the-counter pain medications for mild pain symptoms
  • Prescription pain medication for severe pain symptoms
  • Topical treatments such as capsaicin cream and lidocaine patches
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) therapy for pain management
  • Intravenous immune globulin and plasma exchange treatment to manage inflammatory conditions by suppressing the immune system
  • Physical therapy to treat muscle weakness and improve movements
  • Surgery to treat neuropathies induced by pressure on nerves, such as tumours, herniated disc, etc.

Prevention of Peripheral Nerve Conditions

Some of the measures employed to prevent peripheral nerve conditions include:

  • Regular and moderate exercise to improve muscle strength and overall muscle function
  • Abstaining from alcohol and tobacco, which are known to aggravate pain and cause nerve damage
  • Consuming a healthy diet
  • Monitoring blood glucose levels
  • Taking care of your feet
  • The Society of British Neurological Surgeons
  • British Orthopaedic Association
  • British Association of Spine Surgeons
  • North American Spine Society