Modern Migraine MD

What's Causing My Neuropathy?

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What's Causing My Neuropathy?
At least 20 million American adults have a condition called neuropathy, which can cause painful and debilitating symptoms. Take a moment to learn about this nerve disorder, including some of the common causes and how we can help.

If you’ve been diagnosed with neuropathy, you’re not alone. At least 20 million US adults have this sometimes debilitating condition of the nervous system. And researchers believe many other Americans have neuropathy but remain undiagnosed. 

At Modern Migraine MD with offices in Manhattan, NYC, Toms River, New Jersey, and Aventura, Florida, and seeing patients through virtual visits in 13 states, our board-certified neurologist, Risa Ravitz, MD, takes a holistic approach to treating neuropathy.

By focusing on your whole body and overall health—not just your neuropathy—Dr. Ravitz provides effective relief from the symptoms of neuropathy to restore your quality of life. Keep reading to learn more about the condition, including some of the most common causes.

What is neuropathy?

When people talk about neuropathy, they usually mean peripheral neuropathy. To understand the condition, it’s important to review how your nervous system works.

Your nervous system has two main parts: the central nervous system (CNS), which includes your brain and spinal cord, and the peripheral nervous system (PNS), which includes the nerves outside the CNS.

The PNS plays a major role in your health and awareness. It’s responsible for taking information to and from your brain and CNS and the rest of your body, including the information you take in from your five senses.

If the peripheral nerves get injured or damaged from disease, this disrupts the signals sent to and from your CNS from the peripheral system. In other words, these nerves stop working normally. 

The condition that results, called peripheral neuropathy, causes different symptoms that can negatively impact your quality of life.

What symptoms does neuropathy cause?

Peripheral neuropathy is actually an umbrella term used to describe different types of PNS disorders, not just a single neuropathic disorder. Since it may affect different nerves depending on the location and degree of damage, symptoms of the condition vary widely. 

Generally, you experience symptoms related to the function of the damaged nerves. This means people experience neuropathy differently. For example, some people may have symptoms like sensitivity to temperature or touch while others experience pain. 

Some of the most common symptoms of peripheral neuropathy include: 

  • Numbness, tingling, or a prickling (pins and needles) sensation in your feet or hands, which can spread up your arms or legs
  • Pain that can be burning, sharp, or throbbing
  • Extreme sensitivity to temperature or touch (e.g., pain when a bedsheet touches your feet) 
  • Trouble with coordination and balance
  • Muscle weakness
  • A sensation of wearing socks or gloves, even when your feet and hands are bare
  • Difficulty moving, which can lead to paralysis in severe cases

Less frequently, neuropathy can affect your autonomic nerves. These are nerves responsible for body functions and operate using information in your body and environment, without you consciously thinking about it, like your heartbeat. 

If your autonomic nerves are affected, you can develop a different set of symptoms related to the organs affected. In this case, you may notice feelings of dizziness, excessive sweating, heat intolerance, digestive or urinary problems, sexual symptoms, weight loss, and more. 

Why do I have neuropathy?

Because chronically high blood sugar damages your nerves and Type 2 diabetes is spreading in the US, diabetes is the most common cause of peripheral neuropathy in America. However, many other conditions can cause peripheral neuropathy, including: 

  • Injury/traumatic pressure (e.g., sports injury; car accident)
  • Repetitive stress injury 
  • Alcoholism
  • Vitamin deficiencies 
  • Certain medications (e.g., chemotherapy drugs)
  • Some autoimmune diseases (e.g., lupus; Sjogren’s syndrome)
  • Infections (e.g., HIV; Epstein-Barr virus; Lyme disease)
  • Tumors, cysts, and other growths that press on nerves
  • Kidney or liver disease
  • Hypothyroidism

Since there are so many possible reasons you can develop neuropathy, keep in mind that discovering the exact cause isn’t always possible. In this case, Dr. Ravtiz may diagnose you with what’s called idiopathic neuropathy.

Is there a cure for my neuropathy?

Whether your neuropathy can be cured depends on the type and extent of your nerve damage. As some cases of peripheral neuropathy can be reversed or cured with treatment, it’s important to see a specialist as soon as possible. 

For most people, however, treatment focuses on stopping further nerve damage and managing your neuropathy symptoms. At Modern Migraine MD, Dr. Ravitz evaluates your neuropathy case using electrodiagnostic studies to customize a treatment plan.

While your personalized treatment plan addresses your unique needs, it’s not uncommon for treatment to include managing any underlying medical cause when relevant. Other treatments may include lifestyle changes, pain medication, physical therapy, psychotherapy, and more. 

Don’t try to manage the painful and frustrating symptoms of neuropathy on your own! Schedule an in-person or virtual appointment with Dr. Ravitz at Modern Migraine MD and get the personalized help you need to restore your quality of life.