A patient with neuropathy suffers from damage or dysfunction to the nervous system, typically in an appendage. According to the US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, there are 100 different forms of peripheral neuropathy. Ailments like stroke, diabetes, and a severe viral infection can cause neuropathy, as well as genetics. Neuropathy may be caused by surgeries, even ones that otherwise appear to have been successful. In most cases, the problem is with an extremity, not with the brain or the spine. Pain may be localized or may spread to other parts of a person’s body. When only a single nerve is affected, it is called mononeuropathy; when more than one nerve is affected the condition is called mononeuritis multiplex. When both sides of the body are affected, it is called polyneuropathy.<
Symptoms of the condition vary based on what part of the body has experienced the damage, but the following are the most common:
- Pain, burning or freezing sensation, or feeling of an electrical shock
- Loss of touch sensations
- Feelings of vibration in the affected area
- Loss or lack of coordination
- Muscle atrophy or paralysis
Untreated neuropathy usually worsens. A person with a serious condition may also experience a reduction in other bodily functions, such as glands. It is also the leading cause of chronic pain. Overall, it thought to affect 10% of the world’s population. It disproportionately affects people who are at least 55 years old. It reduces the person’s quality of life, particularly neuropathy related to chronic pain. The associated pain is often worse at night, which can disrupt sleep.
Neuropathy can change the pathway of the nerves, which causes pain. It can also cause inflammation of the nerves or reduce/increase the production of pain-reducing chemicals. This can trigger pain in other areas.
Neuropathy does not always cause pain and can make the area numb or uncomfortable.
Patients need to be treated for the initial problem before treating the neuropathic pain, the residual pain or discomfort can be treated. Not all neuropathy can be cured, but it can be managed with medication and injections. When medication and other readily available, spinal cord stimulation and peripheral nerve stimulation may reduce pain. Stimulation treatment is currently being explored and tested for more serious cases or when a patient is not responsive to other types of treatment. Stimulation treatment usually requires surgery to implant the stimulants into the spine or affected area. There are a few less invasive forms of stimulation. Over time these kinds of treatments usually reduce the pain. When treated early, traditional and holistic treatments are preferred and often provide the same relief.
For more details, check out the International Neuromodulation Society Report.