What are neuropathies?

The term encompasses the different pathologies in which the peripheral nerve is affected. The peripheral nervous system is the group of nerve fibers that connects the central nervous system with other organs of the human body. The different alterations in the functioning of these nerves can cause different types of neuropathies.

Classification of neuropathies

Neuropathies can be classified on the basis of these characteristics:

  • Functionality of the affected nerves: motor nerves are responsible for performing muscle contraction. Sensory nerves are responsible for receiving information from the outside. The nerves that are in charge of carrying out functions in the internal organs. Affection of different types of nerves that will provoke different symptoms that can derive in several pathologies according to:
  • Time of evolution, acute or chronic neuropathies.
  • Axonal or demyelinating involvement.
  • Hereditary or acquired forms
  • Guillain-BarrĂ© syndrome

Acute, sensory-motor, immune and demyelinating neuropathy is an immune disorder in which the immune system attacks the nervous system by mistake. This leads to inflammation of the nerves and causes muscle weakness and paralysis, among other symptoms.

The symptoms of neuropathies vary depending on the type and location of the damaged nerves.

What are the causes of neuropathy?

There are many causes of neuropathy. Its origin can be hereditary or acquired.

  • Hereditary neuropathy is known as Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease and affects the motor and sensory nerves. It causes weakness in the foot and muscles located in the lower legs. Foot deformities are also common, making it difficult to walk and may cause some falls. In more advanced stages of CMT it can also damage the muscles of the hands. There is no cure for hereditary neuropathy.
  • Acquired neuropathy: This type of neuropathy is much more common and includes:
    • Trauma
    • Infections and autoimmune diseases
    • Systemic diseases
    • Medications and poisons
    • Vascular disorders
    • Vitamin imbalance
    • Alcoholism

What are the symptoms of neuropathy?

The symptoms of neuropathy vary depending on the type and location of the damaged nerves. They may appear suddenly, which is called acute neuropathy, or develop slowly and be called chronic neuropathy.

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How is it diagnosed?

Initially, a thorough history and physical examination is performed. The information obtained can help the physician make the correct diagnosis of the affected nerves or sets of nerves. Blood tests and imaging tests, in turn, can provide information about the cause of the neruropathy.

Treatments for neuropathies

The initial phase of treatment is the identification and treatment of any underlying medical problems, such as diabetes or infections. Some of the cases of neuropathies are hormonal or related to nutritional problems. In other words, they can be easily treated and even cured in some cases. However, most neuropathies have no cure. It is known that the different neuropathies can affect the quality of life of people, the mission of the treatment is to minimize the symptoms and get them under control. The treatment options are as follows:

  • Medications that can be used to control pain.
  • Physical therapy uses a combination of concentrated exercises, massage and other treatments to help increase strength, balance and range of motion.
  • In some cases occupational therapy can help cope with color and loss of function and teach compensation for this loss.
  • Surgery is performed on patients with neuropathy that is related to compression, such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • The use of mechanical aids such as braces and shoes designed to reduce pain and allow greater freedom of movement.
  • Proper nutrition is based on eating a healthy diet and making sure to get the right balance of vitamins and other nutrients.
  • Practicing a healthy lifestyle, exercising to improve muscle strength, quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight and watching alcohol consumption.

Which specialist treats you?

Neuropathies are diseases that are treated by specialists in the Pain Unit. Top Doctors offers each patient the specialist that best suits his or her needs, depending on the location and treatments in which he or she is an expert.