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Peripheral Nerve Dysfunction

Peripheral Nerve Dysfunction and What It Means

Peripheral nerve dysfunction, also referred to as peripheral neuropathy, develops when the nerves of the peripheral nervous system malfunction, whether from damage or complete destruction. At Key Clinics, board-certified neurosurgeon Dr. Joel D. Siegal treats patients with these disorders.

The peripheral nervous system connects the nerves from the central nervous system, comprised of the spinal cord and brain, to other parts of the body, including the face, arms, hands, legs, feet, and internal organs.

When functioning normally, the peripheral nerves simultaneously direct signals to and receive signals from the brain.  This allows a person to appreciate any sensation such as pain while also being able to move one's arms and legs. When you experience pain, your nerves are doing their job. When your nerves malfunction, the level of pain can intensify and become quite severe or disappear, allowing for no feeling/pain at all.  Either way, peripheral neuropathy makes life difficult to manage.

Types of Peripheral Neuropathy

You may find it surprising that there are more than 100 types of peripheral neuropathies, each with unique symptoms and special treatments. Medical experts further classify these neuropathies based on the number of nerves involved, mononeuropathy (one) and polyneuropathies (more than one).

Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy

There are three groups of nerves:  autonomic nerves connect to the internal organs; motor nerves connect to muscles; and sensory nerves connect to the skin. Peripheral neuropathies may involve just one of these nerve groups or can impact all three, producing an array of unpleasant symptoms:

  • Weakness in the legs and arms
  • Sharp, stabbing-like pain
  • Tingling in both the hands and feet
  • Numbness in the hands and feet
  • Electric shock-like sensation
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Thinning hair
  • Constipation and/or diarrhea
  • Trouble digesting food
  • Excessive sweating
  • Sexual dysfunction (affects men more than women)
  • Dropping things

Because many of these symptoms could indicate other health-related problems, diagnostic testing is essential. At Key Clinics, Dr. Siegal and his team can help begin the work-up process.

Causes of Peripheral Neuropathy

Several things lead to the development of peripheral neuropathy.

  • Diabetes – In looking at the different forms of peripheral neuropathy, diabetes is the most common cause. With or without diabetes, anyone over the age of 40 who is overweight and has high blood pressure is at a higher risk for developing this nerve disorder. 
  • Vitamin Deficiencies – A deficiency of vitamins B1, B6, B12, or E can also cause nerve damage.
  • Kidney Disorders – Kidney disorders can cause the buildup of toxins, which can damage the peripheral nerve tissue.
  • Hypothyroidism – With this condition, the thyroid gland does not produce an adequate supply of thyroid hormone.  This can cause fluid retention resulting in swollen tissues that exert pressure on the peripheral nerves preventing them from functioning correctly.
  • Alcohol – People who struggle with alcoholism are at an increased risk for developing peripheral neuropathy.
  • Exposure to Toxins – Exposure to pesticides, solvents, and other toxins can lead to direct nerve damage and peripheral neuropathy.
  • Bodily Injury – Whether from a fall, car accident, broken bone, or some other type of bodily injury, trauma can damage the nerves.
  • Inactivity – Sitting or standing in one position for prolonged periods is another cause of peripheral neuropathy.
  • Medication – Certain medications can cause peripheral neuropathy. Medications that present the biggest risk include those used to treat cancer (chemotherapy), battle bacterial infections (antibiotics), and stop seizures (antiseizure) and some of those used to lower blood pressure (antihypertensives).

Win the Fight Against Peripheral Neuropathy

Are you tired of living with the effects of peripheral neuropathy? Contact us at Key Clinics for exceptional care for this and other disorders of the spine and nerves.