Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral Neuropathy

What is Peripheral Neuropathy?

Put most simply, peripheral neuropathy is pain coming from the nerves. While all pain comes from the nerves in a sense, most of the time, the nerves simply transmit information about a painful stimulus to the brain. If a patient has peripheral neuropathy, he or she is experiencing irritation of the nerve itself.

Sciatica is one of the most common forms of peripheral neuropathy, and it occurs when the sciatic nerve is pinched. The sciatic nerve runs from the leg to the spine, so if this nerve is pinched, the brain often “assumes” that the pain is coming from the leg.

There are a number of different ailments and illnesses that can cause peripheral neuropathy:

  • Ruptured discs
  • Cancer
  • Infections such as shingles
  • Diabetes
  • AIDS

Often, this kind of pain feels like a harsh “pins and needles” sensation. If so, it can be treated with tricyclic antidepressants. If the pain is better described as a sharp, stabbing, or electric feeling, anticonvulsants (medication used for seizure treatments) are often used.

There is also “phantom limb pain,” which is pain that occurs after a loss of a limb. The missing appendage might feel as if it were still present and hurting severely. Clonidine (Catapres), which is primarily a medication for blood pressure, can treat this kind of pain.

Lastly, herpes zoster (shingles) can cause peripheral neuropathy by creating an infection in the nerve endings and skin nearby. Applying capsaicin (Zostrix), a common over-the-counter medication, can often help. If necessary, opiates may be prescribed.

Our doctor can help you to determine what is causing your peripheral neuropathy and can prescribe a treatment plan that will work for you.

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