Saanichton, BC

Dr. Miguel A. Lipka

Peripheral Neuropathy

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Peripheral neuropathy is a common neurological disorder resulting from damage to the peripheral nerves. Peripheral nerves, located outside of the brain and spinal cord, provide the means of communication between the brain and other parts of the body, including muscles, skin, internal organs and blood vessels.

If one nerve is damaged, the condition is referred to as mononeuropathy. If many nerves are involved, it is called polyneuropathy.

Neuropathies affect at least 20 million people in North America. Although there are some cases in which the cause is unknown, peripheral neuropathies have many well-defined causes, including:

  • Alcoholism
  • Amyloidosis
  • Autoimmune disorders, such as Guillain-Barre syndrome
  • Bell's palsy
  • Cancer
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Chronic kidney failure
  • Connective tissue disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and sarcoidosis
  • Diabetes mellitus — nearly 60 percent of all people with diabetes suffer from peripheral neuropathy
  • Infectious disease, such as Lyme disease, HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B
  • Liver failure
  • Radiculopathy
  • Vitamin deficiencies

Although there are numerous causes of peripheral neuropathies, they do share some common symptoms including:

  • Weakness, numbness and pain in the hands, legs and/or feet
  • Paresthesia -- a condition that causes abnormal sensations such as burning, tickling, pricking or tingling

Many treatment strategies for peripheral neuropathy are symptomatic. A range of drugs that act on the central nervous system such as drugs originally intended as antidepressants and antiepileptic drugs have been found to be useful in managing neuropathic pain. Synthetic cannabinoids and inhaled cannabis are effective treatments for a range of neuropathic disorders.

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) therapy may be effective and safe in the treatment of diabetic peripheral neuropathy. The treatment remains effective even after prolonged use, but symptoms return to baseline within a month of treatment cessation, so continued use may be necessary.