Neuropathy affects about 8 percent of people over age 55. Your nervous system consists of two parts: the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system.
The nerves of your peripheral nervous system transmit messages between your central nervous system, your brain, spinal cord and the rest of your body.
These nerves regulate a large range of functions throughout the body, including voluntary muscle movement (motor nerves), involuntary organ activity (autonomic nerves), and the perception of stimuli (sensory nerves).
Peripheral neuropathy, which is often simply referred to as “neuropathy,” is a condition that occurs when your peripheral nerves become damaged or disrupted.
It is estimated that neuropathy affects about 2.4 percent of the general population, and about 8 percent of people older than age 55.
However, this estimate doesn’t include people affected by a neuropathy resulting from physical trauma to the nerves.
Neuropathy can affect any of the three types of peripheral nerves:
- Sensory nerves, which carry messages from your sensory organs (eyes, nose, etc.) to your brain
- Motor nerves, which monitor the conscious movement of your muscles
- Autonomic nerves, which regulate the involuntary functions of your body
Sometimes, neuropathy will only affect a single nerve. This is called mononeuropathy and examples include:
- Ulnar neuropathy (elbow)
- Radial neuropathy (arm)
- Peroneal neuropathy (knee)
- Femoral neuropathy (thigh)
- Cervical neuropathy (neck)
Occasionally, two or more isolated nerves in separate areas of the body become damaged, resulting in mononeuritis multiplex neuropathy.
Most often, however, multiple peripheral nerves malfunction at the same time, a condition known as polyneuropathy.
According to the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), there are more than 100 types of peripheral neuropathies.
Neuropathies are either inherited at birth or acquired later in life.
The most common inherited neuropathy is the neurological disorder Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, which affects 1 in 2,500 people in the United States.
Though doctors are sometimes unable to pinpoint the exact cause of an acquired neuropathy (this is then known as an idiopathic neuropathy), there are many known causes: systemic diseases, physical trauma, and infectious diseases and autoimmune disorders.
A systemic disease is one that affects the whole body.
The most common systemic cause behind peripheral neuropathy is diabetes, which can cause chronically high blood glucose levels that damage nerves.
Many other systemic issues can cause neuropathy, including:
- Kidney disorders, which allow high levels of nerve-damaging toxic substances to circulate in the blood
- Toxins from exposure to heavy metals, including arsenic, lead, mercury, and thallium
- Certain drugs, including anticancer medications, anticonvulsants, antivirals, and antibiotics
- Chemical imbalances due to liver diseases
- Hormonal diseases, including hyperthyroidism, that disturb metabolic processes, potentially causing tissues and body parts to swell and exert pressure on nerves
- Deficiencies in vitamins, including E, B1 (thiamine), B6 (pyridoxine), B12, and niacin, which are vital for healthy nerves
- Alcohol abuse, which causes vitamin deficiencies and may also directly damage nerves
- Cancers and tumors that exert harmful pressure on nerve fibers
- Chronic inflammation, which can damage protective tissues around nerves, making them more vulnerable to compression or susceptible to becoming inflamed
- Blood diseases and blood vessel damage, which can harm nerve tissue by decreasing the available oxygen supply
In addition, if a nerve suffers from isolated physical trauma, it can become damaged, resulting in neuropathy. Nerves may suffer a direct blow that severs, crushes, compresses, or stretches them, even to the point of detaching them from the spinal cord.
Common causes behind these injuries are motor vehicle accidents, falls, and sports injuries.
Nerve damage can also arise from strong pressure on a nerve, such as from broken bones and poorly fitted casts. Prolonged pressure on a nerve can also cause neuropathy, as in carpal tunnel syndrome, which occurs when the median nerve in the wrist becomes pinched.
And repetitive physical stress can inflame muscles, tendons, and ligaments, putting significant pressures on nerves.
Numerous infections from viruses and bacteria can cause neuropathy by attacking nerve tissues directly or indirectly, such as:
- Epstein-Barr virus
- Lyme disease
Furthermore, various autoimmune disorders — in which the body’s immune system attacks and destroys healthy body tissue — can lead to nerve damage, including:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Guillain-Barré syndrome (acute inflammatory demyelinating neuropathy)
- Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy
- Sjogren’s syndrome
Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.everydayhealth.com
When an individual experiences damage or injury to their peripheral nerves, the essential communications between the central nervous system, the brain, spinal cord and the rest of the body can be interrupted, leading to complications such as neuropathy. There are several types of neuropathy and numerous possible causes for the condition, however, most share similar symptoms like pain and discomfort.
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