What is neuropathy?
Nerve damage is referred to as neuropathy. This condition affects the neural tissue that is not composed of the brain or spinal cord (central nervous system). Everything outside the CNS is referred to as the peripheral nervous system (PNS).
There are three different types of peripheral nervous tissue:
- Motor neurons- they transmit the impulses that control voluntary and involuntary muscle movements. This includes sitting, standing, walking, as well as breathing.
- Sensory neurons- function to allow us to feel and use our various senses. This includes being able to interpret hot, cold, smooth, rough, and pain.
- Interneurons- these transmit impulses between sensory and motor neurons, as well as between the PNS and the CNS.
How many types of neuropathy are there?
The two most common types of neuropathy are the distal symmetric polyneuropathy and the autonomic neuropathy.
Distal Symmetric Polyneuropathy
This type of neuropathy occurs at the furthest points from the trunk of the human body. This is primarily in the feet, hands, and legs. It can also affect both sides of the body and can include damage to multiple nerves or dermatomes.
What are the signs of distal symmetric polyneuropathy?
- Tingling or burning
- Muscle weakness
- Deep aching
- Sensitive skin
- Pain on contact with sheets or clothing
- Electric shock-like sensations
- Jabs of needle-like pain
- Feelings of bugs crawling on the skin
Many times symptoms and signs of distal symmetric polyneuropathy will exacerbate at night.
Your heart, lungs, blood vessels, stomach, intestines, bladder, skin, and sex organs are all controlled by the autonomic nervous system. This happens inadvertantly throughout the day without you even knowing it!
Any damage to the heart, lungs, and blood vessels will have a direct effect on your blood pressure and heart rate. Symptoms would include increased heart rate (tachycardia), dizziness or faintness, and increased blood pressure when sleping.
Digestion is impacted by any nerve damage that would affect your stomach. Individuals can become bloated and experience bouts of vomiting. When the nerves that innervate the bowels become injured, passage of materials can become hindered. As well, this goes similarly with the bladder. Potential side effects of bladder injury can result in recurrent UTIs. Urinary tract infections present with pain and burning upon urination, cloudy urine, bloody urine, or fever and chills.
When the sex organs experience nerve damage, the end result can be impotence in men and vaginal dryness in women.
Here are six steps to help prevent nerve damage from neuropathy:
- Keep blood glucose levels close to normal.
- Quit smoking.
- Consume less alcoholic beverages.
- Keep your blood pressure under 130/85.
- Keep cholesterol levels under 200.
- Schedule an annual check for nerve damage.