Peripheral nerve damage (i.e. nerves in the body, not in the brain and spinal cord) is referred to as peripheral neuropathy. Disease sometimes acts as a complication of a long-lasting disorder such as diabetes, alcoholism, lack of some vitamins or tumors in certain parts of the body. There are many other possible causes of peripheral nerve damage, such as overdose of some drugs and excessive exposure to some chemicals (especially arsenic, mercury, lead and so-called “organophosphorus” chemicals found in pest control).
Some infections can directly attack the peripheral nerves: among them the most common is leprosy, although diphtheria, poliomyelitis and tetanus may have the same effect. In very rare cases, mild viral infections can cause severe peripheral neuropathy. Recovery in such cases is usually complete.
In most forms of peripheral neuropathy, the symptoms gradually occur over many months; a drastic exception is Guillain-Barre syndrome. First and foremost, there is tingling on the fingers and feet from where it spreads slowly along the limbs to the hull. After that, numbness can appear. In some cases, there is a general weakening and decaying of muscles throughout the body decay.
The disease is relatively common among alcoholics and diabetics. Cases caused by the accumulation of toxic chemicals are rare in the general population, but are somewhat common among workers in some industrial branches and on agricultural assets. There is some evidence that some types of peripheral neuropathy, which develop without apparent reason, may be inherited abnormalities.
If the numb part of your body is hurt, you may not be aware of any injury until infection or ulceration occurs. If the cause of disorder is leprosy, fingers on hands and feet may be irretrievably damaged. A gradual deterioration of muscles can lead to weakness or paralysis.
What to do?
Timely diagnosis is important since slow nerve damage is usually irreversible. If you feel tingling in your fists and feet (especially if any of the factors that may cause this condition may apply to your case), contact a doctor who will probably refer you to a neurologist for examination. The neurologist will take a look at general pathological and personal anamnesis, and examine you to see if your muscles are weakened and if there are any places ”affected” with numbness. Special tests depend on a possible cause of the problem.
Peripheral neuropathy cannot be solved directly by medication or surgical intervention. However, if it is found that the cause of nerve damage is another disorder, a more thorough treatment of the underlying disease should slow or stop the progression of peripheral neuropathy. If toxic chemicals are the cause of this condition, it would be best not to expose the hazardous substance or to reduce the exposure. This can also mean changing jobs or occupations.
In severe cases of severe muscle damage you may need physical therapy, as well as aids that will allow you greater mobility and autonomy – walking sticks or walking boards, and rods in the bathroom. Your doctor will also warn you to the possibility of unexplained wounds on numb joints, and to contact a specialist whenever you get a bruise or an open wound. Arrange with a pedicurist to take care of your feet, and wear comfortable shoes.