To understand neuropathy, it helps to understand how the nervous system works. The nervous system consists of two parts: the central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord, and the peripheral nervous system, which connects the nerves running from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body (from eyes, mouth, arms and hands to internal organs, to legs and feet.) Neuropathy – also called peripheral neuropathy – occurs when nerves are damaged and can’t send messages from the brain and spinal cord to the muscles, skin and other parts of the body. Simply put, the two areas stop communicating.
What is Neuropathy?
Neuropathy is either damage to or disease which affects nerves in the body. It affects about 6-7% of the population, and may be a chronic, long-term condition where symptoms begin and progress slowly or begin suddenly and have a rapid progression.
There are several factors and conditions that can contribute to neuropathy including diabetes, heredity disorders, inflammatory infections, auto-immune diseases, and chronic alcoholism and certain medications.
People who have neuropathy can experience a wide range of symptoms including:
- Numbness or a burning sensation (tingling) in the feet or hands
- Painful cramps
- Fine muscle twitching
- Muscle loss
- Changes in skin, hair and nails
- Bone degeneration
Treatment for neuropathy has traditionally included physical therapy and primarily treating the root cause of the disease, for example treating diabetes with blood sugar management.