What is neuropathy?
"Simply put, neuropathy is damage to the nervous system. The nerves have been attacked or compromised for one reason or another. Very often the protective layers surrounding the nerves themselves or the nerve cells have been destroyed or eroded and this leads to what you could term, ‘short circuits’ in the nervous system. This means that signals that normally travel between the brain, spine and the organs and limbs to enable normal function, are disrupted, causing both erroneous instructions and sometimes strange and painful symptoms. Neuropathy is categorised as a disease of the nerves, so it’s not just a random happening caused by an unexpected accident (except in those cases where physical injury is the obvious cause)." Neuropathy: Facts and Fiction
It seems to be often associated with diabetes. Google it and you will see that. Hear it all the time on the commercials.
"That’s true, you’ll see many more sites about
diabetes-related neuropathy than anything else because diabetes is the commonest cause, especially in the Western world. There are however, over 100 different categories of neuropathy and over 100 different causes but that doesn’t mean that the neuropathic symptoms you may be feeling are generally any different to those brought about by other causes. Many things will bring about nerve damage but once you have neuropathy, you’re sharing symptoms with about 90% of all other neuropathy patients."
Will it go away?
"This is where neuropathy can confound even the experts. Sometimes, if you haven’t had the symptoms for very long, they may gradually disappear, possibly due to the body being able to repair the nerve damage itself. However, in these cases, the nerve damage was probably only slight to begin with. In the vast majority of cases, if you have had neuropathic symptoms for more than 6 months to a year, you’re more than likely to be stuck with them and there’s a good chance that they will be progressive and get worse. At that point, you will need some help to cope with the effects and keep them under control."
Can it be caused by back injury? (this was an interesting one I had not heard about. I really think my neuro should have at least explored why my nerve damage happened. Just, you know, to be thorough.)
"Oh yes; it’s mainly called radiculopathy and is one of the many causes of neuropathy. It occurs when a nerve becomes trapped between discs and vertebrae (in the hands, it may result in carpal tunnel syndrome) and this is quite common. There is some light at the end of the tunnel for radiculopathy patients in that the trapped nerve may be able to be surgically ‘released’ thus relieving the pressure and the symptoms. However, the longer a nerve is damaged due to impaction, the less likely it will recover fully. A study in the British Medical Journal, showed that three quarters of back pain sufferers who receive no help will have pain or disability a year later, so the quicker you get your condition checked out the better."
The symptoms seem to differ with some people. With sensory to mobility to autoimmune issues.
Idiopathic neuropathy? What do they mean they don't know what caused it?"Just like the causes and types of neuropathy, the symptoms can vary widely but generally fall under one of the following:
- Numbness, tingling, burning sensation, pins and needles, twitching (even restless leg syndrome is a form of neuropathy), loss of balance and sharp, severe pains. These are most often felt in the feet (soles of your feet), legs to your knees, hands and arms but can appear on other body parts as well.If you have what they call ‘Autonomic neuropathy’ then various involuntary functions of the body may be compromised (breathing, digestive functions and sexual performance amongst others) and bring further misery.So just because your symptoms are different doesn’t remove the possibility of neuropathy. Personally, I believe the symptoms are pretty much unique to the disease and you know it if you’ve got it but both the degree of discomfort and the range of symptoms can certainly vary."
"Actually it means very little. Idiopathic neuropathy is not a disease on its own, or even a form of neuropathy; it just means the doctors can’t identify the cause of your problems. Many people leave the doctor’s appointment feeling both dissatisfied and perhaps even disbelieved if they are told their neuropathy is idiopathic and it’s the doctor’s job to reassure you that your problem is no less serious for it. Up to 40% of all neuropathy patients have idiopathic neuropathy but that says more about the efficiency of the testing systems than the severity of the symptoms. With causal diseases like diabetes, or HIV the doctor/ specialist/neurologist will probably make a reasonable estimate that the cause is linked to those external problems. Similarly, if you have undergone chemotherapy after cancer, that is a common cause of neuropathy but in many cases, the diagnosis is made on the basis of your symptoms, which are so clear that there is little dispute as to what you have. If you tell your story and describe your symptoms, you should never feel that you’re exaggerating, or being underestimated. The cause is not the end of the matter; the treatment that follows the diagnosis is what’s vital for you."