When nerves in your body are damaged due to illness or injury, you may experience problems with mobility or sensation. Medically called neuropathy, such damage is common in people with diabetes. Dr. Christopher Sinclair, neurologist with Suffolk Brain and Nerve in Port Jefferson Station, New York, diagnoses and treats neuropathy when the symptoms start to interfere with your daily life. Request an appointment online or call the office today to arrange a consultation.
Your body’s nervous system is divided in two major parts: the central and peripheral nervous systems. Neuropathy typically refers to disruptions or damage to the nerves of the peripheral nervous system, and you might hear it called people peripheral neuropathy.
About 2.4% of the general population experiences neuropathy, and about 8% of people over the age of 55 may be affected. Peripheral nerves have three types, sensory, motor, and autonomic nerves, and each of these may be affected by neuropathy. Single nerves may be affected, or groups of nerves can be involved, sometimes in connected groups or areas. Multiple, unrelated nerves can also experience damage.
Weakened nerves may be inherited, or you may have a disease or condition that affects your nerves later in life. High blood sugar can, over time, damage nerve fibers, causing a condition called diabetic neuropathy, which commonly arises in your feet. Certain autoimmune disorders can cause neuropathy as well, as your immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. Tobacco use and drinking alcohol excessively can each damage both nerves and blood vessels.
You’re at greater risk of developing neuropathy if you have diabetes and your blood sugar is poorly controlled. Your risk also increases the longer you have the condition. Kidney disease can increase toxin levels in your blood, which may also increase the risk of neuropathy. High body mass indexes (BMI) can also increase your risk, particularly when combined with diabetes.
Neuropathy can’t be reversed once damage begins, though treatment can slow its progression, relieve the pain it causes, restore function, or minimize complications.
Slowing progression of neuropathy typically involves healthy lifestyle practices and controlling blood sugar levels, if you have diabetes. Moderate or no alcohol intake and quitting smoking can prevent further nerve damage, as can a healthy diet and physical activity.
Dr. Sinclair can prescribe various medications to control neuropathic pain, and for some people he recommends IV infusions to deliver medication directly to your bloodstream to minimize the effects of neuropathy. IV infusions may provide relief from chronic pain that isn’t responding to other treatments.