Neuropathy is a common disorder that is derived from damage to one or more peripheral nerves, especially the ones connecting from your brain to the arms, legs, fingers, and toes. Neuropathy is accompanied by weakness, numbness, pain, and the uncomfortable sensation of pins-and-needles. A common cause of neuropathy is diabetes, but it can also be an outcome of an injury, infection, and exposure to harmful toxins.
Neuropathy affects about eight percent of adults over the age of 55, but even if you’re not among the 20 million Americans suffering from this type of nerve damage, it’s always best to be informed, because if you’re not suffering from it, someone you know might be. So, to pay tribute to National Neuropathy Awareness Week, we’re going to share with you the causes, types, and holistic approaches to help cope with neuropathy.
What Is Neuropathy?
Neuropathy is often classified according to the location or types of nerves that are damaged. It can also be classified according to the disease that is causing it. For example, neuropathy that is caused by diabetes is called diabetic neuropathy.
There are over 100 types of neuropathies, but sometimes a neuropathy will only affect a single nerve, including your neck, thighs, elbow, arms, and knees.
Types of Neuropathy
No, we’re not going to list all 100 types of neuropathies, but there are some common neuropathies we thought you might want to know about, including:
Peripheral neuropathy: When the nerve damage affects the peripheral nervous system, which is made up of the nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord. This type of neuropathy affects the nerve of the extremities — feet, toes, legs, fingers, hands, and arms.
Proximal neuropathy: The nerve damage that causes pain in the shoulders, hips, buttocks, and thighs.
Autonomic neuropathy: The damage to the nerves of the involuntary nervous system, which are the nerves that control the heart, digestion, bladder and bowel function, sexual response and perspiration.
Cranial Neuropathy: Occurs when any of the 12 cranial nerves are affected. There are two specific types of neuropathy which are optic neuropathy and auditory neuropathy. Optic neuropathy refers to the disease or damage of the optic nerve that transmits image signals from the retina of the eye to the brain. Auditory neuropathy involves the nerve that carries signals from the ear to the brain.
Focal Neuropathy: Affects one nerve or group of nerves, or one particular area of the body.
What Causes Neuropathy?
Nerve damage can be caused by a variety of different injuries, diseases, infections, and genetic disorders:
- Vitamin deficiencies of b12, folate and other B vitamins can cause nerve damage
- Autoimmune neuropathy relates to an autoimmune disease such as systematic lupus or rheumatoid arthritis
- Alcoholic neuropathy
- Amyloidosis (abnormal protein deposits)
- Toxins and heavy metals such as gold compounds, lead, arsenic, mercury, and nitrous oxide
- Tumors like benign or malignant tumors can damage the nerves directly
- Other diseases including kidney disease, connective tissue disorders, liver disease, and hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
- Idiopathic neuropathy (no reported cause for the neuropathy)
Symptoms of Neuropathy
Neuropathy symptoms are often classified according to the location or types of nerves that are damaged. The symptoms can also be classified according to the disease that is causing it. Even though some people struggling with neuropathy may not have any symptoms at all, certain symptoms are common:
- A gradual feeling of numbness, prickling or tingling in your hands or feet, which can spread upward into your legs and arms
- Sharp, throbbing, jabbing, freezing or burning pain
- Extreme sensitivity to touch
- Lack of balance, falling
- Muscle weakness or paralysis if motor nerves are affected
If autonomic nerves are affected, signs and symptoms might include:
- Heat intolerance and altered sweating
- Bowel, bladder or digestive problems
- Changes in blood pressure, causing dizziness or lightheadedness
Herbal Remedies for Neuropathy
For every problem, there is a solution, for those who are looking for a more holistic and alternative approach to coping with neuropathy, we have listed three herbs that are known to help subside the symptoms and pains associated with neuropathy.
Ginger is practically a cure-all for everything. From indigestion to even helping you lose weight, ginger has been proven beneficial in treating pain resulting from neuropathy. Packed with tons of digestive aid properties and strong antioxidant effects, ginger has been found to help relieve pain and improve joint and muscle function.