Understanding Your Risk Factors for Neuropathy

Understanding Your Risk Factors for Neuropathy

Neuropathy refers to a variety of disorders characterized by damage to nerves. Neuropathy affects roughly 30 million people in the United States. Symptoms can include pain, decreased sensation and a feeling of tingling, pins and needles, and burning. 

My team at Premier Neurology Group in Beverly Hills, California, routinely diagnoses and offers effective solutions for managing neuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy is the most prevalent type of the 100+ different forms of neuropathy. It happens when the peripheral nerves that transmit messages about sensation are damaged. 

It’s important to know the risk factors for neuropathy, so you can act now to reduce your chances of developing the condition. Here, I discuss the most common risk factors. 

Diabetes

Diabetes is by far the greatest risk factor for peripheral neuropathy. A progressive change in feeling, as well as discomfort and weakness in the feet, are common symptoms. As the damage progresses, you may experience a loss of sensation in the affected areas. This is of particular concern because without appropriate sensation, you may sustain an injury without realizing it, and that injury can quickly become an open wound (ulcer).

High blood sugar damages nerves, altering the way the nerves communicate messages, and causing the electrical impulses to the nerves to malfunction. If you have diabetes, keeping your blood sugar level well-controlled within a target range is the best way to lower your risk of developing neuropathy.

Age

Neuropathy affects people of all ages. However, the risk of neuropathy increases with age. Developing neuropathy as an older adult can complicate other age-related conditions.

Autoimmune disorders

Autoimmune disorders occur when the immune system mistakenly targets healthy tissue. Certain autoimmune disorders damage your nerves, which can lead to neuropathy. Autoimmune disorders associated with neuropathy include lupus, vasculitis, and sarcoidosis.

Infections

Infectious illnesses may cause neuropathy. Herpes zoster, widely known as shingles, commonly causes neuropathy. With age, the chances of acquiring postherpetic neuralgia (long-term nerve pain) from shingles increase.

Some people with Lyme disease develop neurological symptoms, particularly neuropathy affecting the face. 

Nutrient deficiencies

Nerves can stop working properly if they aren't getting enough nourishment. Certain nutrients, such as B-12, play a key role in nerve function. Chronically low B-12 levels can lead to neuropathy over time.

In B-12 deficiency, the myelin sheaths that cover and protect nerves become damaged, leading to symptoms of neuropathy. Metformin, a type 2 diabetes treatment, has been related to vitamin B12 insufficiency. If you're taking it, it’s important to monitor your B-12 levels. 

Injury or repetitive stress

Injury and inflammation can sometimes put pressure on one or more nerves, causing them to malfunction and lead to neuropathy.

For example, if you have an injury near your knee, you may develop a neuropathy involving the peroneal nerve, resulting in pain, weakness, numbness, or tingling in that nerve. Swelling or fluid retention from an injury might also impair nerve function.

Neuropathy can also be caused by repetitive stress from job, hobbies, or sports. Carpal tunnel syndrome, for example, can cause burning, tingling, or numbness in the palms and along the fingers because of recurrent pressure on nerves and tendons in the hands.

In some cases, the cause of neuropathy is unknown. People over the age of 60 are more likely to develop neuropathy without an apparent cause.

Treatment for neuropathy

The key to treating peripheral neuropathy is to determine the underlying cause. If the nerve injury is not permanent, most of the symptoms will improve. The pain can be managed and eased over time with various medications.

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), a type of electrical current therapy, can help relieve the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.

I’m dedicated to helping you lead a full and healthy life. To learn more about my approach to managing neuropathy, call my office in Beverly Hills, California, to schedule a visit or use our convenient online booking form.

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