What is Neuropathy?


“What is Neuropathy?” “What does that mean?”

A person is said to have neuropathy when damage occurs to their nervous system. This includes the nerves outside the central nervous system (CNS) that is excluding the brain and the spinal cord.

Neuropathy also known as peripheral neuropathy or sometimes as poly neuropathy, is an underlying condition found in some commonly found medical conditions. Neuropathy can affect three types of nerves:

  • Autonomic – regulates the involuntary functions of our body such as breathing, heart rate, sweating etc.
  • Sensory – passes information regarding sensation from a part of the body to the brain such as heat, cold, sharp, rough etc.
  • Muscular – controls the muscles of our body and enables us to move and carry out our daily activities.

Some of the common causes of neuropathy include:

  • Metabolic conditions – Diabetes Mellitus
  • Physical trauma – injury to the spinal cord, thus damaging the nerves
  • Exposure to toxins  – excessive alcohol
  • Cancer – chemotherapy
  • Vitamin B deficiency
  • Diphtheria
  • Chronic liver/kidney disease
  • Certain medications – it may present as a side effect of a drug for other conditions

One of the most common causes of neuropathy seen by a podiatrist is caused due to the presence of Diabetes Mellitus. 50% of the population are said to be asymptomatic, that is, no pain is felt. Neuropathy is then determined through annual health assessments. For the other half of the population nerve pain symptoms may be present. Some signs and symptoms include:

  • Burning
  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Sharp pain
  • Pins and needles
  • Extreme sensitivity in feet
  • Muscle weakness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Reduced reflexes

Neuropathy can be prevented if an underlying cause is known and can be controlled. However, if that does not help, then symptomatic relief of pain is suggested.

An annual assessment of the feet is definitely recommended once an individual is diagnosed with neuropathy. This helps with monitoring the progress of the condition, if it has gotten worse or better. It also aids with ensuring there are no wounds or cuts that have been gone unnoticed by the individual, thus reducing the chances of wounds, infection and in turn the risk of amputations.

If any of these signs or symptoms seem familiar to you or any members of your family be sure to visit your nearby health professional to get it assessed.


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Melissa Biedak

Melissa Biedak


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