Symptoms of Neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy is damage to the peripheral nervous system. This is a complex and extended network of nerves that communicates the whole body with the central nervous system (spinal cord and brain). This is a two-way communication, transporting information, i.e. about high temperature in that part of the body and brings a response from the brain or spinal cord, like getting that part of the body away from the heating source. Any injury interfering with that communication distorts what the brain interprets (receives wrong information) and the necessary response to that information received. Peripheral neuropathy is due to extremely varied causes, but injury symptoms can be very similar.
The neural network is so complex that we can understand that a peripheral neuropathy can cause varied symptoms, given that complexity. Symptoms can be set abruptly or gradually, so it’s very difficult for the patient to know exactly when it begun.
In a very schematic way we can group the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy according to the type of nerve that has been damaged, but knowing that it is very common that damage has multiple facets.
- Motor nerves. Damage can be minimal (paralysis or loss of strenght) or severe (cramps or muscle fasciculations)
- Sensory nerves. Their functions are highly specialized and damage can be extremely variable. When it comes to large nerves fibers, sensibility to touch or vibration can be seriously affected. It is difficult to perceive a small object on the skin. The feeling of wearing gloves or thick socks is commonly reported by patients. Though motor fibers are intact, as it is complicated to know exactly the position of any body part, movement turns out difficult to coordinate. Neuropathic pain is another symptom related to this damage. If the damaged fibers are tiny, things like pain or heat are not felt in the zone. For that reason, burns are very frequent as well as severe injuries, as such, a foot can be injured and continue walking as it nothing happened, when pain is not felt. Obviously this condition aggravates damage.
- Autonomic nerves. In this cases, damage is manifested on varied ways. The heart rate can be altered, as well as breathing, body temperature or pressure, even bladder control. Gastrointestinal problems are common symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.