Peripheral Neuropathy Explained
Peripheral neuropathy (PN) is not commonly discussed and poorly understood, yet it affects more people than Rheumatoid Arthritis - a much better known ailment with just as severe consequences in its worst form.
PN is a complex of disorders in the peripheral nervous system resulting from damage to the nerve's protective coating or the nerves themselves.
Our peripheral nervous system is made up of nerve fibers bundled together in nerve trunks. They run from the brain and spinal cord (which makes up the central nervous system) to other parts of our body. The fibers are shielded by coating or membrane called a myelin sheath. Like wires protected by insulation, the fibers carry 'electrical' impulses from receptors located in internal organs, muscles and skin, back to our brian via the spinal cord.
When an injury to our peripheral nerves or their protective coating which interferes with the transmission of impulses from these receptors, one of two things (or sometimes both) occurs depending on the receptors and nerve fibers involved. Either the brain simply acknowledges and registers the abnormal transmission as pain or some other unpleasant sensation, or it prompts a response back to the muscle or organ from which the original impulse emanated. In the latter case the impulse may result in decreased muscle movement or changes in organ functioning.
PN seems in most cases to initially occur at the extremities of the longest nerves farthest from the brain and spinal cord. Consequently, the feet, being at the end of the line are usually the first to be hit. Frequently the hands are next. Over time the affliction can spread to ankles, legs and arms if the underlying cause is not addressed.
We will add to this page and discuss the types, symptoms, causes and outline a range of treatments available.
For more information, we have found the book "Numb Toes and Aching Soles - Coping with Peripheral Neuropathy", John A. Senneff, to be very useful. (ISBN: 0-9671107-1-8)