Neuropathy is a common symptom of many underlying medical conditions. The causes of neuropathy include disease, poisoning and physical trauma. As these causes are so varied, multiple medical tests are sometimes required to make an accurate diagnosis.
Disease is one of the many causes of neuropathy. One of the most common is diabetes. High blood sugar increases blood pressure, damaging nerves throughout the body. Most patients with diabetes who experience neuropathy complain of either loss of feeling or pain in the legs. These two symptoms indicate that the legs are not receiving an adequate amount of blood.
Amyloidosis is another disease that causes neuropathy. In amyloidosis, the body incorrectly stores proteins. Pain begins as the buildup of proteins hinders normal bodily functions. Though other prominent symptoms present with the disease, bodywide neuropathy, or polyneuropathy, occurs in all patients.
The causes of neuropathy include poisoning by various substances. Heavy metals such as mercury and lead can lead to loss of both sensation and motor control. As some metals have very specific effects on the human body, a doctor may be able to make a diagnosis relatively quickly. Outside of accidental poisoning, scientific testing has shown a strong link between excessive alcohol consumption and neuropathy.
Though chemotherapy is designed to treat cancer, the healthy parts of the body react to it as a poison. The nerves are no different. Many patients undergoing chemotherapy experience varying degrees of neuropathy. The progression of the neuropathy usually stops at the end of chemotherapy treatment.
Various forms of physical trauma are causes of neuropathy. For example, a stoke victim may experience neuropathy in a number of places throughout the body. People involved in car crashes or shootings have the same risk. In all cases of trauma, either the nerves themselves are damaged or a temporary lack of blood flow damages the nerves in an otherwise unaffected part of the body.
Due to the many causes of neuropathy, a patient presenting symptoms to his or her doctor should expect to undergo a variety of medical tests. After diagnosis and treatment of the underlying cause, patient and doctor can begin to discuss pain management. Pain medication, physical therapy, a specialized exercise routine and acupuncture are all options. Many patients with neuropathy try multiple treatments before finding a combination that works best. Eliminating neuropathy may not be possible in some patients, but following a treatment plan along with regular visits to the doctor ensures the best quality of life possible.