Dr. Kari Young
The Damaging Effects of Peripheral Neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy affects at least 200 million people globally, and those with diabetes and those over the age of 40 are at the most risk. More than 100 types of peripheral neuropathy have been discovered, with their own associated symptoms and severity.
There are 3 classifications of nerves in the peripheral nervous system:
Motor nerves which control the movement of muscles under conscious control. This affects a person’s ability to speak, walk and grasp.
Sensory nerves which are responsible for the transmission of information. This affects the way that a person may feel a light touch, heat or cold, or the pain from an injury.
Autonomic nerves which affect the organs that function through involuntary control. For example, breathing, heart beat, digestion, gland functioning.
Neuropathy symptoms can range from discomfort to severely painful. It can negatively impact a person’s quality of life when it becomes debilitating.
Polyneuropathy is the most common form of peripheral neuropathy, and involves multiple nerves throughout the body. Common types are:
Diabetic neuropathy is by far the most common type of peripheral neuropathy, and affects people with diabetes. When blood sugar is not controlled, it can lead to foot amputations.
Guillain-Barré syndrome is a less typical type, yet severe, of polyneuropathy that is also classified as an autoimmune disease. It occurs when the immune system attacks the nerves of the spinal cord. This condition is particularly dangerous if left untreated, and can lead to paralysis and even death.
The word “mono-” refers to one, and mononeuropathy affects one single nerve area in the body. Mononeuropathy is caused by physical injury or damage, overuse, or repetitive motion of the area. Common examples of mononeuropathy include:
Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most common types of mononeuropathy, and it is common for people who frequently type, work in factories, or any occupation that requires repetitive motion. It can lead to pain and numbness in the fingers, hands, wrists, and arms.
Peroneal nerve palsy causes difficulty in lifting the foot, or “foot drop”. This condition can be as a result of damage to the peroneal nerve, which is located above the calf and near the knee.
Radial nerve palsy is caused by damage to the radial nerve, which runs up the upper arm. People who have had a broken arm may experience this.
As the name implies, multiple mononeuropathy damages 2 or more nerves in the body, in 2 or more areas.
Because neuropathy can affect any number of nerves, the symptoms are quite vast. However, there are overlapping symptoms among the various types.
Pain or pain sensitivity
Blood pressure issues
Difficulty eating or swallowing
Loss of coordination
Loss of balance
Muscle weakness or atrophy
Sweating or inability to sweat
Tingling or prickling sensations
In rare cases, peripheral neuropathy can be genetic, however the vast prevalence of cases are due to epigenetics. Most cases are as a direct result of lifestyle, exposure to pathogens or toxins, injuries, or other diseases and health concerns.
Specifically, the most common causes are:
Hepatitis B and C
Shingles and chickenpox
Diet and nutrition
Certain foods contain the nutrients specific to optimize nerve health, including B vitamins, niacin, and vitamin E. Here are some common foods to support nerve health:
Chicken and turkey
Good lifestyle choices
Leading a healthy lifestyle can help eliminate many of the causes of neuropathy.
Physical activity can help increase oxygen flow to even those nerve endings at the body’s extremities. Exercise can also help build muscle strength which can help to reduce the effects of neuropathy in the motor nerves.
Reduce alcohol consumption to prevent or improve neuropathy symptoms. About half of people who drink chronically experience neuropathy.
Stop smoking in order to decrease exposure to toxins. Smokers often develop neuropathy.
Control blood sugar, especially for those with diabetes.
Build a Healthy Foundation
Support terrain and nerve health in order to optimize overall health and to prevent nerve damage. The most important strategies are to:
Reduce and control chronic inflammation
Optimize immune and mitochondrial function
Detox targeted toxins and interferences at the cellular level
Nerve health is crucial to wellness and quality of life. If left untreated, neuropathy can have a devastating effect, both physically and emotionally. And although millions of people suffer, there are many ways to prevent and address the condition.