Peripheral Neuropathy, or damage to the peripheral nervous system, is often a painful and debilitating condition that afflicts an estimated 20 million Americans. Diabetics account for a whopping 68%, or nearly 14 million, of the patients who struggle with this condition. While diabetic peripheral neuropathy is the most common form, it is not the only form and now we are learning that the long term use of drugs can also lead to peripheral neuropathy.
Our peripheral nervous system is made up of a complex web of nerves that connect the brain and spinal cord, or central nervous system, to the rest of the body. These peripheral nerves send messages and sensory information to the brain that is vital to our well being. Every peripheral nerve has a highly specialized function for a specific part of the body. Peripheral nerves may signal the brain that our feet are cold or that we have burned our hand. Because these nerves are so important, when damage occurs to them, a wide variety of symptoms may occur. Some symptoms are temporary and less severe such as numbness, tingling or picking sensations, while others are most severe including burning pain, muscle deterioration, organ dysfunction and even paralysis. In rare, but the most extreme cases, organ failure may occur. In some cases, damage to just one nerve can bring on peripheral neuropathy but more often, multiple nerves are affected.
With more than 100 types of peripheral neuropathy, there are countless ways that it represents in patients and there are different ways that the condition can be caused. Sometimes inherited, other times acquired, peripheral neuropathy can be difficult to diagnose due to the high number of varying symptoms. While some patients never learn the true cause of their neuropathy, there are several common types of acquired peripheral neuropathy including:
- Physical injury of trauma
- Systemic diseases such as diabetes and other metabolic and endocrine disorders
- Infections and autoimmune diseases
- Extended use of drugs and drug therapies
More and more case studies and research are being dedicated to determining the incidence of drug-induced peripheral neuropathy, which is a very real problem in a society where drug therapies are standard treatment options. Though it is difficult to determine that exact number of cases that have been caused by long term drug use, studies today are showing that the number is higher than ever thought before. Drugs can also cause different types of peripheral, the most common effect is the death and breakdown of a fiber in the nerve cells that carries nerve impulses.
Over 50 drugs have been proven to induce peripheral neuropathy including cardiovascular drugs, chemotherapy drugs, hypnotics or psychotropics, anticonvulsants and more. (For a more complete list, please click here.) Any patient who is receiving treatment with a drug that is known or suspected to cause peripheral neuropathy should undergo a neurological exam, especially if any abnormal skin sensations, muscle cramps or spasms or pain is present.
Perhaps most importantly, remember that there are alternatives to drug therapies for many conditions that are even more effective at treating the root of the problem. If drug therapies have already been used and patients are showing signs of peripheral neuropathy, there is also hope. Chiropractic Neurology is a safe, effective and fast-acting treatment plan. If you or a loved one are experiencing any of the symptoms described in this article, or if you have been prescribed medications on this list and area looking for alternative treatments or help with current symptoms, please call Dr. Marc Ellis today at the Georgia Chiropractic Neurology Center.
For a complete list of systemic diseases that may induce peripheral neuropathy, please click here.