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Peripheral Neuropathy Facts

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.

peripheral-neuropathy-facts

Overview

There are many conditions that cause paresthesia (peripheral neuropathy), which is an abnormal sensation in your hands or feet. This sensation may be described as pricking, tingling, burning, chilling or numbing. Paresthesia can occur anywhere in the body, but the hands and feet are most common.

There is usually no specific physical reason for peripheral neuropathy, but physicians do know it is a type of nerve damage to one or more nerves. It may be a chronic or transient condition. This is typically a fairly painless problem that is resolved when the causative effect is removed.

The people most commonly affected with neuropathy include

  • Diabetics 60% to 70%
  • People on chemotherapy 30% to 40%
  • People with human HIV 30%

Types of Peripheral Nerves

There are three types of peripheral nerves in the body, and each type has a different function.

They include:

  1. Sensory nerves carry messages through the spine to the brain from your five senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch).
  2. Motor nerves carry messages from your brain to your muscles.
  3. Autonomic nerves are responsible for the body functions, such as breathing, heart rate, sweating and bladder control.
Nerve

Nerve

Possible Causes

There are several reasons for peripheral neuropathy symptoms, including:

  • Standing or sitting in one position for long periods of time
  • Injuring a nerve anywhere in your body may cause numbness
  • A pressure on the nerve in the spine or elsewhere in the body, such as a herniated disk
  • Infections, such as HIV/AIDS, syphilis or tuberculosis
  • Shingles or herpes zoster infection
  • Pressure on a peripheral nerves due to enlarged blood vessels, scar tissue, infection or tumor
  • Abnormal levels of potassium, calcium or sodium in your body
  • A lack of blood supply to a specific area in the body
  • A lack of vitamins, such as B1, B6, B12 or folic acid
  • Using illicit street drugs
  • Certain medications
  • Radiation therapy
  • Animal bites
  • Damaged nerves due to alcohol, tobacco or chemotherapy medications
  • Tick, insect, mite or spider bites
  • Seafood toxins
  • Congenital conditions that affects nerves

Medical Condition Causes

There are specific medical conditions that may cause numbness or tingling, including:

  • Diabetes
  • Carpal tunnel (wrist) or cubital tunnel (elbow)
  • Migraines
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Seizures
  • Stoke
  • Transient ischemic attacks (TIA)
  • An underactive thyroid
  • Raynaud's phenomenon - narrows the blood vessels (usually in the hands and feet)

What May Be Causing Your Hands And Feet To Tingle

Other Symptoms - Other Causes

Neuralgia in the hands or feet may be intermittent, chronic or severe. There are over 100 types of neuralgia. This discomfort may wake you up at night. The pain typically occurs when you are in one position for long periods of time and also with repetitive use.

Other possible symptoms are itching and muscle wasting. If you have nerve damage you may experience more tingling and pain. This includes repetitive stress injuries, traumatic injuries, toxin exposure, bacterial or viral infections. Peripheral neuropathy can gradually get worse, resulting in decreased mobility.

Toxins And Autoimmune Diseases

Toxins including heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury, lead and thallium may cause neuropathy.

Any autoimmune disease may have a causative effect. They include Guillain-Barre syndrome, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome and chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy.

Physical Therapy

Physical Therapy

Inherited disorders tend to have sensory and motor symptoms, such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.

Infections such as Lyme disease, shingles, Epstein-Barr, cytomegalovirus, herpes simplex and HIV/AIDS are all possible causative factors.

Injuries can cause compression of a nerve, and the nerve can be very damaged. A dislocated bone or a herniated disc tend to cause more severe nerve damage. Injuries can result in carpal tunnel syndrome, peroneal nerve palsy, ulnar nerve palsy and radial nerve palsy.

Systemic Illnesses

Peripheral neuropathy is often associated with systemic diseases and they include:

  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Vascular damage
  • Connective tissue disorders
  • Blood diseases
  • Amyloidosis
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Hypothyroidism and other hormonal imbalances
  • Benign tumors
  • Cancers

Quick Fix To Stopping Hand Numbness!

Alcoholism

Important vitamin deficiencies, like thiamine, are very likely with alcoholism. Inadequate dietary habits may cause peripheral neuropathy. Nerve damage with alcoholism is called alcoholic neuropathy.

Vitamin Deficiencies

Healthy nerve function depends on vitamins B1, B6, E and niacin. A vitamin B12 deficiency can cause pernicious anemia, which is a cause of peripheral neuropathy. However, too much B6 can also cause tingling in the hands and feet.

Physician Diagnosis

In addition to discussing your symptoms, your doctor will want an extensive medical history. The physician will do a physical examination, and your doctor may also order blood tests. The blood tests detect diabetes, liver or kidney dysfunction, vitamin deficiencies and any other metabolic condition.

Other medical tests that may be ordered, include:

  • Spinal tap to examine cerebrospinal fluid
  • Electromyogan (EMG)
  • Nerve conduction velocity (NCV)
  • Computed tomography (CT)
  • Nerve biopsy
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Skin biopsy to examine nerve fiber endings
  • Genetic testing

Treatments

Peripheral neuropathy may be treated with medication, including:

  • Antidepressants (nortriptyline or duloxetine)
  • Anti Seizure medications that treat nerve pain (gabapentin and Lyrica)
  • Topical patches and creams containing lidocaine (lidoderm or Xylocaine) or capsaicin (Capsin or Zostrix)
  • Immunosuppressant drugs may be used for those with an autoimmune disease
  • Physical therapy (PT) to improve your strength, balance and your range of motion. PT uses a combination of massage, exercise and other treatments.
  • Occupational therapy is used to help you cope with the pain and loss of function.

Surgeries may be used if you have a compression-related neuropathy due to a herniated disc in your back or neck. Surgery may be used for tumors, infections or nerve entrapment disorders, Carpal tunnel syndrome is a good example.

A transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) places electrodes on the skin near the affected area, and it provides a low-level electrical current. The purpose is to disrupt the pain signal so it does not reach the brain.

Other treatments can include acupuncture, massage, herbal products, alpha-lipoic acid, behavioral therapy, meditation, yoga or psychotherapy.

Mechanical aids may help, and they include braces, casts, specially designed shoes and splints. They provide support, reduce pain and keep the affected nerves in proper alignment.

Healthy living habits include eating healthy, exercise, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol intake and maintaining a normal weight.

In Summary

There are numerous causes of peripheral neuropathy, and treatments will be based on the cause. People with diabetes are at a much higher risk of developing peripheral neuropathy.

When you have this disorder it is a good idea to get evaluated by a doctor before the problem becomes more serious. Certainly try the stretches described in the video for pain relief. Preventing this disorder by living a healthy lifestyle is the best idea.

References

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2021 Pamela Oglesby

Comments

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 21, 2021:

Hi Brenda,

I think most people experience that tingling by holding their phone or anything too long. I hope the article helps someone with these symptoms, but maybe they had no idea why they had the problem.

I am glad you found the article to be informative and that you liked the videos.

Thank you so much for your nice comments. Have a good day!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 21, 2021:

Hi MG,

There certainly are a variety of treaments, so I hope your friend is doing well. I am glad the article was informative to you. I alway appreciate your comments. Thank you.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on January 21, 2021:

Pamela,

Your article is filled with great knowledge.

Tingling sensation happens alot to people and it can be quite scary.

Your words give details which may help someone when this nerve damage starts to happen. Like waking up with tingling or numb sensations in hands or feet.

I am guilty on holding my phone too long...causing this tingling in my fingers as well as pain in my neck & shoulders.

Loved the videos.

Great writing.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on January 21, 2021:

This is a very interesting article because one of my friends had neuropathy because of diabetes but he was able to control it with medication. I don't know what happened after that but your article certainly gave me a lot of detailed information on this disease.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 21, 2021:

Hi Linda,

I am glad you found this information to be interesting and useful. Thank you for your comments.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on January 20, 2021:

Your article is full of useful and interesting information, Pamela. It’s a great resource.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 18, 2021:

Hi Rosina,

I have used those stretches that are illustrated in the 2nd video, and they have helped me. I am glad you like this article, and your comments are always appreciated, Rosina.

Have a wonderful week, Rosina.

Rosina S Khan on January 18, 2021:

Thank you for the awesome and helpful article, Pamela. I think the video on stopping hand numbness will be useful for many. I appreciate your sharing this terrific article.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 18, 2021:

Hi Doris,

I think Agent Orange does have an impact on this disease. My husband also has several medical problems due to Agent Orange.

The 2nd video I posted has stretches that have helped me with this problem, and I have had surgery for carpal tunnel.

I appreciate your comments, as always Doris. I hope you have a good week.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 18, 2021:

Hi Adrienne,

I had a nerve conduction study test, and it was probably the most painful test I ever had. I would not do it again.

There are so many causes of this problem, and it is probably more common than we thought. Thank you for your comments. I hope you have a good week.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on January 18, 2021:

Very helpful article, Pamela. My husband developed peripheral neuropathy as a result of vascular problems. He's suffered several heart attacks and a couple of strokes and now has a pacemaker. However, I wonder if exposure to Agent Orange can also contribute to this problem. It is very difficult for him to cope with it. His VA doctors haven't given him any exercises or any hope of improvement. I'll have him check out the videos. Thanks!

Adrienne Farricelli on January 18, 2021:

There are so many causes you have listed for peripheral neuropathy! I imagine getting a diagnosis must take several tests. I remember a relative of mine had issues with numbness and had to undergo a painful test that checked her nerve function.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 18, 2021:

Hi Ms Dora,

This is a very common problem. The stretches shown in the 2nd video are very helpful.

I appreciate your very nice comments. Have a very good week.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 18, 2021:

Hi Peggy,

Those types of stretches have helped me, and I was glad to find a video that showed them. Working on computeres for many hours surely contributes to this problem.

I appreciate your comments, Peggy. Hope you have a great week.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on January 18, 2021:

I've heard complaints of tingling in the hands and feet. Thanks for your very helpful explanation, and your advice. Your article is interesting and informative, as usual.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 18, 2021:

Hi Ankita,

I am glad you have found my articles to be informative. I appreciate your very nice comments.

Have a great week!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on January 18, 2021:

Hi Pamela,

Thanks for writing another informative medical article addressing this problem of peripheral neuropathy. That video showing stretches to alleviate numbness and tingling in the hands was a good one. Many of us who work at computers and do a lot of typing can use those suggestions.

Ankita B on January 18, 2021:

Excellent article. Your articles are always thoroughly explained. I learn so much from them. Thank you for sharing.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 18, 2021:

Hi Devika,

I am glad you have learned from the medical articles. It is so good to be informed.

I appreciate your comments. Have a great week!

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on January 18, 2021:

Hi Pamela99 I have learned a lot from your informative hubs. It is interesting and important information for all to know of on this topic. Nothing is guaranteed unless you know exactly the facts as you have explained. Thank you, have a peaceful week.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 18, 2021:

Hi Linda,

There are many people who have this problem for such a variety of reasons. Chemotherapy often has unpleasant side effects for sure.

Thank you for your comments. Have a great week!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 18, 2021:

Hi Manatita,

I have sciatica and I am well aware of how painful it can be, so I hope yours does not return. Thank you so much for your comments.

Have a great week! God bless you.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on January 18, 2021:

Pamela, I had no idea there could be so many causes for this. My SIL had a problem with her hands after her chemotherapy; her hands were always so cold she had to wear gloves all the time. Thank you for another well-organized article.

manatita44 from london on January 18, 2021:

A very thorough article! I have it mildly, discovered many years ago due to my chronic fatigue, or rather as an investigation into my chronic fatigue. Don't seem to bother me. I also have sciatica of some years which was giving me some of the numbness and pain you described. God's willing, it's been kept at way for a few years. Excellent Hub!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 18, 2021:

Hi Linda,

Thank you for your comment. Have a great week.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 18, 2021:

Hi Chitrangada,

I hope it does benefit those who read it as peripheral neuropathy is an annoying disorder, and I think a lot of people don't know what to do about it.

I appreciate your nice comments. Have a wonderful week!

Linda Chechar from Arizona on January 18, 2021:

Your article in several diseases and peripheral neuropathy and systemic nerves for medications.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on January 18, 2021:

Excellent and thoroughly explained article about Peripheral Neuropathy disorders. Well researched and explained points, about the possible causes and treatments.

I am sure it will benefit many people who read it.

Thank you for sharing!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 18, 2021:

Hi Bill,

Your flattery is accepted. :) Thank for commenting. Happy Monday to you too. Have a great week!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 18, 2021:

I always learn so much from your articles. Who needs a doctor when there's a Pamela in the house?

Happy Monday, my friend!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 18, 2021:

Hi E Randall,

While I researched this article I found many more causes than I expected. Thank you very much for your comments.

E Randall from United States on January 18, 2021:

Fantastic article, I did not know that certain diseases like shingles and HIV have a potential to cause neuropathy.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 18, 2021:

Hi Liz,

I think you are right. While this can be a fleeting sensation there are those who have a more serious problem as it all depends on the cause.

I appreciate you very nice comments. I hope you have a wonderful week!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 18, 2021:

Hi Flourish

I actually thought about you when I was writing this article, as I thought you might have this problems. My husband has a problem with his feet also. I appreciate your comments, as always.

I hope you have a good week!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 18, 2021:

Hi Ann,

I'm glad you have a better understanding of this problem. I agree about the risk of spine surgery as I have had 2 failed back surgeries. I don't know if that second video would help, but the stretches have healped me. I pray he will not get any worse as he sounds like a very determined person with regard to activity. That is probably a good thing.

Thank you so much for your comments, Ann. Have a good week.

Liz Westwood from UK on January 18, 2021:

This is a detailed and very interesting article. This is a condition that I would imagine that most of us encounter at some stage in our lives. Often it is fleeting and there's an obvious explanation, but this article gives a thorough explanation and detailed analysis of a wide range of causes.

FlourishAnyway from USA on January 18, 2021:

This is a persistent symptom of my MS even when I have no others. It’s so bad that I often cannot distinguish if my feet are wet or cold. There are also sudden pains. Not fun.

Ann Carr from SW England on January 18, 2021:

Very interesting, Pamela, and, as always, so well explained.

My partner has tingling and numbness in his feet, caused by injury to the nerves when he fell from a tree and landed on his back. The doctor said it would probably accelerate natural damage (wear through age!) by about 10 years! He is active, has always had very physical jobs, and doesn't stop doing all sorts of projects. He also has arthritis. Apart from pain-killers, it's something he has to live with as spine operations are too risky (unless the pain becomes unbearable). Sometimes, he can't feel his feet at all so is at risk of further injury (e.g. stepping on a nail).

However, he just gets on with life and hardly ever complains. Doing nothing is not an option as far as he's concerned, thankfully!

Thanks for making this clearer in my mind. I now better understand the reasons for the symptoms.

Ann