Neuropathy is the medical term for nerve damage caused by disease or injury, and there are four types of neuropathy diagnoses. It typically causes symptoms such as pain, muscle weakness, numbness, and tingling in the part of the body that is affected. Understanding the differences in these diagnoses and the various neuropathy treatments that are available to you can help you make better decisions about your care and get relief from the pain.
There are four types of neuropathy, and each one has its own unique set of causes, symptoms, and treatments. They are:
- Peripheral neuropathy: When the issue affects nerves located outside the brain and spinal cord, it is referred to as peripheral neuropathy. It tends to have the greatest effect on extremities, including hands and feet, and it occurs most frequently in diabetic patients.
- Cranial neuropathy: When one of the twelve nerves exiting directly from the brain (cranial nerves) is affected by injury or disease, this is called cranial neuropathy. This typically affects sight (optic neuropathy) or hearing (auditory neuropathy).
- Autonomic neuropathy: This sort of neuropathy affects the involuntary nervous system, which consists of nerves responsible for controlling blood circulation, digestion, bladder and bowel function, and more.
- Focal neuropathy: Finally, focal neuropathy is any sort of neuropathy that is localized to one part of the body or one specific group of nerves.
Diabetes is the most common cause of neuropathy, and it most cases, it is due to issues with circulation. As circulation decreases, so does the amount of blood that reaches the extremities, and this can result in injuries. Other causes of neuropathy include vitamin deficiencies, certain types of infections and autoimmune disorders, alcoholism, genetic problems, the presence of toxins or poisons, and tumors. Rarely, patients may be diagnosed with idiopathic neuropathy. This simply means that there is no known reason or underlying cause for the neuropathy in some cases.
Neuropathy treatment depends on the cause, severity, and type of neuropathy the patient experiences. It often cannot be cured, but it can be managed with various therapies and medications. The most effective neuropathy treatment options include:
- Treating the underlying cause. If neuropathy is caused by diabetes or HIV, for example, the goal is to control the diabetes or infection to reduce the neuropathy symptoms.
- Medications. In some cases, medications are required to treat the underlying cause of neuropathy. In others, these medications may be used to relieve pain.
- Surgery. If a tumor is the cause of the neuropathy, surgical removal of that tumor can decompress the nerves and relieve the pain.
Neuropathy affects millions of people each year, and its symptoms range from relatively mild to severe. If you are affected by neuropathy, it is important to find the cause and work with your physician to develop a treatment plan that provides you with relief.