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Recognizing the Early Signs of Peripheral Neuropathy

Recognizing the Early Signs of Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy refers to damage affecting any of the nerves outside your brain and spinal cord. Recognizing the first signs of neuropathy gives you the ability to seek early treatment. Early treatment is your best chance for stopping the ongoing and progressive nerve damage.

The peripheral neuropathy specialists at Infinity Regenerative and Neuropathy Center have extensive experience getting to the source of the problem. They offer today's most innovative treatments that ease your symptoms and promote nerve healing.

We have identified possible neuropathy symptoms so you can recognize early signs when they appear.

Diverse neuropathy symptoms

You have three types of peripheral nerves, each causing different symptoms:

Sensory nerves

Special sensors located throughout your body pick up information about pain, temperature, texture, pressure, and other senses. Then the sensory nerves carry that information to your brain. If a sensory nerve is damaged, you experience symptoms like pain, tingling, numbness, and burning.

Motor nerves

Motor nerves carry information from your brain to your muscles, telling muscles to relax or tighten and directing your movements. The symptoms of motor nerve damage include muscle weakness, cramps, spasms, and changes in the way you move.

Autonomic nerves

Your autonomic nerves control the involuntary functions that keep you alive, including your heart, blood pressure, breathing, digestion, and body temperature. Damaged autonomic nerves cause many symptoms — you may have a fast heart rate, excessive sweating, or dizziness when standing up, to name a few.

Autonomic symptoms aren’t as common in peripheral neuropathy as sensory and motor (sensorimotor) symptoms. If they appear, they’re not usually an early symptom.

Where peripheral neuropathy symptoms begin

Though the symptoms you experience depend on the nerves that suffer damage, most cases of peripheral neuropathy follow a pattern.

At least three out of four cases of neuropathy are length-dependent, which is important when it comes to recognizing early signs. Length-dependent neuropathy begins in the longest nerves and its symptoms start at the farthest end of the nerve.

This means that your earliest symptoms occur in your feet. From your feet, the symptoms gradually progress up your legs. If your neuropathy symptoms reach your knee, then you may start to feel symptoms in your hands. However, many people never experience hand problems.

Neuropathy seldom begins in the hands and feet at the same time. If that happens, you may have a different, unrelated nerve problem in your hands such as carpal tunnel syndrome.

Early signs of peripheral neuropathy

The earliest signs of peripheral neuropathy involve mild to moderate sensory symptoms. You may also experience positive or negative sensory symptoms.

Positive symptoms include pain as well as tingling, prickling, electric-shock, and burning sensations. Neuropathy often makes the nerves hypersensitive to pain. As a result, you may have intense pain. If you have negative symptoms, you develop numbness and lose feeling.

Motor symptoms tend to come after sensory symptoms with the first sign being muscle weakness. Since the symptoms begin in your feet, they affect your gait, balance, or ability to walk.

Foot symptoms before sensorimotor symptoms

You can have peripheral neuropathy with active nerve damage, yet not experience sensory or motor symptoms. For example, diabetes is the top cause of peripheral neuropathy. However, 10-15% of people with diabetic neuropathy don't have symptoms despite nerve damage.

The first sign that you have peripheral neuropathy may appear in the form of a foot or lower leg wound that doesn’t heal. Or, the wound may take a long time to heal and then reappear again.

These foot wounds begin as a small cut, callous, or bruise. You don't feel the problem because neuropathy causes numbness. 

The wound doesn't heal because diabetes also damages blood vessels, cutting off the oxygen and nutrients needed for healing. Without treatment, foot wounds get worse and can enlarge, becoming a nonhealing ulcer.

If you notice early signs of peripheral neuropathy, don’t wait to get an assessment. Call Infinity Regenerative and Neuropathy Center or book an appointment online today.

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