Peripheral nerves, synonymous to peripheral nervous system, basically are the nerves that join your spinal cord and brain to the rest of your body parts. Any damage caused to the peripheral nerves can affect the brain and its ability to send instructions to other organs and muscles. Putting pressure on a nerve or stretching can lead to peripheral nerve injury. Specific health conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure, bone marrow disorder or deficiency of certain vitamins can also damage the nerves. Moreover, if you have a genetic history of nerve disorders, you may experience peripheral nerve disorder. Peripheral nerves are of three kinds- sensory nerve that connects to the skin, motor nerves that connect to the muscles, and autonomic nerve that connects to the internal organs. Damage to any part of the peripheral nerves lead to the following symptoms- numbness or tingling sensation in the hands and feet, sharp pain, thinning of the skin, sudden drop in the blood pressure, digestive problems, excessive sweating, weakness, losing balance and lack of coordination.
Peripheral nerve disorders can be diagnosed with the help of blood tests, imaging tests, nerve and skin biopsy, electromyography, neurological examination and review of your medical history. The condition can be treated with medications and specific therapies.
The doctor will first go through the medical conditions- symptoms, lifestyle, and family history of neurological disorders- and then examine your muscle tone, strength, tendon reflexes, and your ability to feel certain sensation. Blood tests are conducted to check for diabetes or any vitamin deficiency. Electromyography inserts a thin needle electrode into your muscles to record electrical activity in your nerves. Low muscle activity indicates a nerve injury. Nerve conduction test places electrodes at two different portions of your body to measure how well electrical signals pass through the nerves.
Treatment of peripheral nerve disorders depends on its causes and diagnosis. If the disorder is conditioned due to diabetes, your doctor will recommend specific medications to control your blood glucose. If the cause is deficiency of certain vitamins, you may be prescribed vitamin supplements. Drugs like Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen, Carbamazepine and Aspirin can help ease the pain and reduce the symptoms of peripheral nerve damage. Your doctor may also suggest corticosteroid injections and seizure medications like Pregabalin or Gabapentin. Transcutaneous Electronic Nerve Stimulation (TENS) is a drug-free therapy that places electrodes on your skin to send small amount of electric currents into the skin.
If you observe the following symptoms- numbness or a tingling sensation in the hands and feet, sharp pain, or weakness, thinning of the skin, sudden drop in the blood pressure, digestive problems, excessive sweating, weakness, inability to walk or run- then you are probably suffering from peripheral nerve injury or disorder, and is eligible for the treatment.
Pain in different parts of the body does not necessarily indicate an internal nerve injury. Hence, those who have been inflicted with injury due to other medical conditions are not eligible for the treatment.
Overdose of certain pain killers and seizure medications as well as electromyography test can lead to serious complications. The most common side effects are- abdominal pain, high fever, coughing out blood, nausea and vomiting, abnormal bleeding or bruising, discoloration of the skin, infection, redness or swelling.
Post treatment guidelines for peripheral nerve injury require people to look after their health conditions, especially if you are diabetic. Include sufficient amount of vegetables and fruits in your diet. Increase consumption of food that is rich in vitamin-B12. Avoid consumption of alcohol. Exercising at least thrice a week can reduce the risk of peripheral nerve disorders. Those who work for long hours on desk should not sit at one position for too long, so keep moving around for sometime after an hour or two. Wear comfortable shoes specially designed for your feet that can ease the nerve pain.Continue with the medications if and as prescribed by your doctor.
It usually takes a few months to recover from peripheral nerve injury. However, after the initial treatment you will have to continue with the medication and therapy, and make some lifestyle changes for a faster recovery.
The cost of undergoing peripheral nerve disorder treatment can vary somewhere between Rs.3000 to Rs.25,000 depending on the type of medication or therapy you will receive.
The treatment results are not permanent. Although in most cases peripheral nerve tissues heal after months of treatment and care, in certain situations, the condition may recur. For instance, nerve injury inflicted by radiation therapy does not heal well.
Alternative treatment options can be physical therapy or yoga. That helps your muscles to become flexible and help improve your movement. You can also try acupuncture which basically involves inserting needles into various parts of your body to reduce symptoms of peripheral nerve disorder.