Neuropathy is very unpleasant. The word neuropathy literally means an illness of the nerve. Neuron is a nerve cell and ‘apathy’ comes from ‘pathos’, which means illness. This term however doesn’t explain the cause. Actually, there can be many causes for an illness of the nerve. If more than one nerve is affected, then we use the term polyneuropathy. ‘Poly’ means many, so that polyneuropathy is an illness of multiple nerves.
Neuropathy caused by diabetes
Diabetes is of the most common diseases that causes neuropathy. Diabetes upsets the balance in the blood, which interferes in the functioning of the nerves. This interference can occur in the sensory nerves. For example, you might experience numbness of the feet or of the motoric nerves. This weakens the muscles. This disorder might also have a negative effect on pain nerves and the pain is then felt in the feet, for example. This is usually a type of burning pain (painful feet or burning feet). In the case of diabetes, the fact that the feet feel ‘dead’ can be a big problem. You don’t feel any wounds so you may not notice them. That’s why patients who suffer from diabetes coupled with neuropathy are always advised to have their feet treated by a pedicurist.
Affecting various nerves
Because nerve function is upset in neuropathy and polyneuropathy, you might experience all sorts of symptoms. It depends on which nerve or nerves are affected.
Damage to the nerves in neuropathy
If pain nerves are the ones mostly affected, then this is referred to as nerve pain or neuralgia. In the case of neuropathy, you might have pain in an area in which the nerve runs, for example facial pain or in several parts of the body if it is a case of polyneuropathy. In most forms of polyneuropathy, the pain is mostly in the feet. For example, if your sensory nerves are also affected, then you no longer feel sensations in feet or just the opposite – you feel very peculiar sensations. It might feel as if you are waking on cotton wool or wearing a double sock in your shoe. If the motoric nerves that run to the foot are affected, you might suffer from drop foot. That causes you to trip over everything and consequently, you walk like a stork to avoid stumbling over your own feet. Neuropathy could cause all sorts of unpleasant symptoms, from facial pain to pain in the hand, for example carpal tunnel syndrome. This causes the entire hand to tingle and at night the pain is at its worst. In this type of neuropathy, the pain could even move up to the shoulder. Just to explain a totally different side, neuropathy of a small eye muscle can result in astigmatism in one eye (lazy eye). This comes about when the eye muscle no longer functions well.
Neuropathy can cause sensory disturbances
The vicious cycle of neuropathy
Many forms of neuropathy are characterized by a sickly, pathological state of the nerve. This could be in case of pressure. If pressure is exerted on the nerve, as in carpal tunnel syndrome, neuropathy develops in one of the hand nerves (nervus medianus). This nerve runs on the palm of the hand and if pressure is exerted on it, it slowly causes an increasingly worse nerve inflammation. With this kind of stress on the nerve, the nerve no longer functions well and can no longer regulate proper metabolism. One of the most protective molecules, palmitoylethanolamide, cannot be generated either by the nerve. Consequently, the irritation and swelling of the nerve increases, creating even more pain. A vicious cycle is created. This vicious cycle can also occur in diabetic neuropathy. As a result of disturbance in the carbohydrate metabolism, the nerves are stressed, reducing the production of the protective and inflammation inhibiting nerve molecule, palmitoylethanolamide. The increasing stress of sugar in the blood on the nerves slowly makes the symptoms even worse. In case of diabetes, it is also immensely important to regulate the sugar level properly.
The conclusion about neuropathy
Neuropathy can occur as a result of all sorts of disorders and can be responsible for all sorts of symptoms. From astigmatism in case of neuropathy of the eye nerve up to numb feet in case of neuropathy of the nerves that run to the feet. Muscles could also slacken and inflammations could occur. Whether one nerve or numerous nerves are affected, neuropathy and polyneuropathy are unpleasant disorders.
Neuropathy can also affect motoric nerves resulting in paralysis.