Peripheral neuropathy awareness week is a period to share information about neuropathic pain.

Peripheral neuropathy is a life-altering condition that can make the hands & feet painful. It can also cause tingling sensations and can affect balance while walking.

The peripheral neuropathy awareness week was established by the National Health Observances. It is sponsored by the Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy. It was established to raise awareness for a condition that affects an estimated 30 million Americans and countless more worldwide.

Despite the large numbers of people who are impacted by peripheral neuropathy, it is still viewed by many as a secret disease.  Few people have heard of it and not enough treatments are available for it. More so, not enough funding is being made available for research on it.

Peripheral neuropathy results from the damage of the nerves that supplies the muscles and skin of the body. Therefore, can occur both in motor and sensory nerves.

Major causes of peripheral neuropathy include:

  • Diabetes mellitus 60%
  • Idiopathic 23%
  • Chemo-induced 10%
  • HIV/AIDS 2%
  • Others 5%

Peripheral neuropathy caused by diabetes mellitus is often sensory in origin and painless. However, either motor or sensory function can be affected within a single peripheral nerve affectation in mononeuropathies. Sensory peripheral neuropathy is frequently asymptomatic. However, it may present with numbness, night cramps, paraesthesiae and burning sensations in the soles of the feet.

There may also be loss of vibration sense, ankle jerks and other tendon reflexes.  Sometimes there may be severe wasting and weakness of the proximal muscles of the upper and lower limbs as seen in motor neuropathy.

Ulcers may develop at the pressure points especially if there is no good foot care. Charcot neuroarthropathy may also develop as a result of the altered perception of pain and temperature.

Prevention, treatment and care:

Diet rich in omega-3 fatty acid and antioxidants in fruits and vegetables can help reduce the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy. Regular exercise can also help to reduce symptoms. Avoiding gluten can sometimes help.

It is advices to consult a family doctor ones someone notices any of the above symptoms. The doctor will review and collaborate with other subspecialties in managing the patient. The doctor may also commence the patient on some medications including antioxidants, membrane stabilizers, opiates, anticonvulsants or tricyclic antidepressants.

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