Making a diagnosis of neuropathy can be difficult since it is not a disease in and of itself, but a symptom of many various conditions. Doctors may begin by checking muscle tone, reflexes and posture followed by more extensive testing to determine how quickly nerves are responding to impulses. Sometimes portions of nerves are removed so that they can be examined for abnormalities at a cellular level. Other times, if a patient has a condition which often causes neuropathy, a doctor may diagnose the condition based on symptoms alone.
Neuropathy is a condition where nerves are damaged due to injury or illness. This can cause tingling, burning, and other uncomfortable symptoms. It is commonly associated with uncontrolled diabetes and it most often affects the hands and feet. Other potential causes are tumors, herniated discs, and neurological disorders.
To make a diagnosis of neuropathy, a doctor will first run a few simple tests to check nerve function. Reflexes are checked to ensure that nerves are responding to stimuli, and the patient may be checked for proper posture and for muscle strength. Computed tomography (CT) scans may also be completed along with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests to check for muscular or skeletal diseases.
A nerve biopsy may also be needed in order to make a diagnosis of neuropathy. This is where a small portion of a nerve is extracted and examined under a microscope. Doctors can sometimes tell if the nerve is damaged, which makes diagnosis much easier. If the nerves are damaged and there is no known cause, additional tests may be run to determine why it is occurring.
Another way of making a diagnosis of neuropathy is to run electrical currents through the nerves in order to see how quickly they conduct electricity. This is especially useful in determining a diagnosis when patients are suffering from nerve damage due to injury, such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Many times, a combination of all of these tests will be used to make a definitive diagnosis.
Treatment for neuropathy varies. Many times this symptom goes away on its own when the underlying condition is cured or controlled. For chronic conditions, medications are often used to reduce discomfort. Many people discover that performing certain activities triggers symptoms, so these may have to be avoided until an effective treatment is found. Sometimes electrodes are used in the treatment of this condition to move a current of electricity through the nerves.