What is Peripheral Neuropathy?
Peripheral Neuropathy is a general category used to describe a variety of disorders of the peripheral nervous system—which includes the face, arms, legs, torso, some skull nerves, feet, hands, etc. Neuropathy often affects people with autoimmune diseases. Those with diabetes are at a high risk of developing peripheral neuropathy. Other factors that may increase risk of neuropathy are:
- Alcohol abuse
- Vitamin deficiency
- Certain medical conditions—including some cancers, kidney and liver diseases, hypothyroidism
- Repetitive stress from work or hobbies
- Exposure to toxic substances
- Some bacterial or viral infections
Peripheral Neuropathy and Celiac Disease
Since neuropathy is most common among patients with autoimmune disorders it is not uncommon for those with celiac disease to experience some signs and symptoms of peripheral neuropathy. In fact, a 2003 study found that 5% of patients with peripheral neuropathy have celiac disease. The most common symptoms for celiacs to experience are sever burning, stinging and electric shock-type pains, adherence to a gluten-free diet lessens and/or eliminates almost all patients' symptoms.
Signs and Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy
Symptoms of neuropathy often begin gradually and localized, eventually spreading and increasing in awareness. Some patients with peripheral neuropathy may barely notice their symptoms and may think that nothing is wrong for many years, others feel constant and unbearable pain. Weakness of paralysis may occur if the motor nerves are affected. Bowel or bladder problems, reduced sweating, light headedness, fainting and impotence might occur is certain nerve groups have been damaged. The most common symptoms are:
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of feeling
- The sensation that you are wearing a sock or glove
- Sharp, jabbing or electric-like pain
- Extreme sensitivity to touch
- Lack of coordination
Diagnosis and Treatment
To help diagnose peripheral neuropathy, your doctor will take a full medical history and perform a physical and neurological exam. Some blood tests may be ordered—B-12 vitamins, thyroid function, urinalysis, and possibly electromyography (EMG), usually a nerve conduction study will be ordered to see how your nerves are carrying signals.
Treatment is based on managing the underlying condition that is causing the neuropathy. Medications can also help ease pain from symptoms of peripheral neuropathy, but many have long term side effects. Some patients receive relief from symptoms through acupuncture, hypnosis and meditation. However, the best way to treat peripheral neuropathy is to control the condition that is causing the symptoms.
Do you or a family member suffer from this disease? You may have celiac disease, find out now, take our celiac disease symptoms checklist.