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Peripheral neuropathy is a disorder of the nerves of the human body which are found outside the spinal cord, in the legs, hands and other parts of the body. Peripheral neuropathy is rarely fatal, but can cause complications since the body is unable to respond appropriately to harmful stimulus. For example , the foot may be damaged, but since the patient is unable to feel the pain, he may not be able to take further action.
Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy are numbness, tingling, burning, loss of feeling and pain. These symptoms are not very noticeable initially and patients may ignore them for years. The numbness or tingling sensation is often experienced in the toes, since the nerves to the extremities of the body are the longest in length and most likely to get damaged. Lack of co-ordination is another sign of peripheral neuropathy.
A single nerve is damaged due to repetitive activity , an injury , pressure on the nerve caused by sitting in a unnatural position or wearing tight clothes.
Multiple nerves are affected by peripheral neuropathy due to:
1. Diabetes - is the most common reason, and patients who have been suffering from diabetes for a long time are most likely to face this problem. Other diseases like HIV/AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis, hypothyroidism. Bacterial and viral infections can also cause problems.
2. Deficiency of certain nutrients like vitamins, especially Vitamin B1 & Vitamin B12. Certain medications, alcohol and toxins like lead, arsenic, mercury and pesticides also can affect the nervous system. This is a common cause of health problems in cities, with high pollution levels.
3. Sometimes, peripheral neuropathy is a hereditary condition
Peripheral neuropathy is treated by controlling the underlying problem. If it is due to diabetes, by controlling the blood sugar levels, neuropathy can be prevented. Diabetes patients should wear properly fitting footwear and examine their feet regularly for damage. Precautions should be taken to ensure that food is free of heavy metals and pesticides. Avoid sitting in a particular position for a long time, since the pressure can cause nerve damage. Pain caused by neuropathy can be suppressed using pain killers or a nerve block.
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