Colorado State Rams coach Mike Bobo was recently diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy.
What’s fact or fiction about peripheral neuropathy?
1) Peripheral neuropathy is an uncommon condition. FICTION
An estimated 20 million people in the U.S. suffer from peripheral neuropathy. There are likely many more who are never diagnosed. Peripheral neuropathy is a catch-all term for damage that occurs most often in the nerves of the hands or feet most often.
Nerves connect the body to the spinal cord and brain, which make up the central nervous system.
There are peripheral nerves, which help with motor function and activate the muscles to fire and move. There are sensory nerves, which also help you feel and sense your environment. The final types of nerves are autonomic, which are nerves that help with your basic body functions, like heart rate, blood pressure and digestive symptoms.
2) The symptoms of peripheral neuropathy can be very different in each person. That potentially makes it hard to diagnose. FACT
Peripheral neuropathy can cause many different symptoms because it can affect the motor, sensory or autonomic nerves. The hands and feet are most commonly affected. Motor peripheral neuropathy can cause muscle weakness or cramping.
Sensory neuropathy can cause difficulty with sensing your position. Neuropathic pain, often sharp pain at nighttime, makes you prone to infections/trauma in your hands and feet because you cannot sense pain, have difficulty with coordination, or have pain fibers that are misfiring.
Autonomic nerve issues can cause problems with heart rate and digestive issues. The condition can be caused by many different things, such as trauma, infections (e.g. shingles, Epstein-Barr, lyme disease), alcoholism, certain types of medical conditions like diabetes, autoimmune disorders (e.g. lupus), vitamin deficiencies (e.g. Vitamin B12) and toxic or heavy metal exposure.
3) Peripheral neuropathy is easy to treat. FICTION
The first and most important part is trying to find the cause of peripheral neuropathy. This may require blood tests, nerve testing or imaging. Often times, doctors may not be able to find the cause. If it is diabetes, or an autoimmune disorder, it may be possible that with better blood sugar control or medications, your symptoms may go away.
For others medications to help control the pain, such as lidocaine patches or neurontin can be helpful.
For others, foot and hand braces can help with walking. Depending on the cause, surgery and even electrical stimulating units may be helpful as well.