Nerves carry messages back and forth between the brain and other parts of the body. All of our nerves together make up the nervous system.
Peripheral neuropathy is a type of nerve damage that affects the nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord (peripheral nerves), often causes weakness, numbness and pain in the hands and feet. It can occur at any age, but is more common among older adults and diabetics.
Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy may vary, depending on the types of nerves affected, but the common ones may include:
- Gradual onset of numbness and tingling in the feet or hands, which may spread upwards into the legs and arms
- Burning pain
- Sharp, jabbing or electric-like pain
- Extreme sensitivity to touch, even light touch
- Pain during activities that shouldn't cause pain
- Lack of coordination
- Muscle weakness or paralysis if nerves controlling your movements are affected
Peripheral neuropathy can be caused by a number of health conditions, which includes:
- Diabetes. Having an uncontrolled blood sugar level will damage your nerves and also your blood vessels that supply nutrients and oxygen. Without enough oxygen and nutrients, your nerves cannot function well.
- Autoimmune disease. Certain autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis where the immune system attacks its own cells and leads to nerve tissue damages.
- Physical injury. Injuries such as accidents, falls or sport injuries can damage peripheral nerves.
- Nutritional or Vitamin imbalance, particularly B Vitamins.
- Kidney, liver or thyroid disorders.
The best way to prevent peripheral neuropathy is to manage medical conditions that put you at risk. Adapt healthy lifestyle habits to support your nerve health:
- Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein to keep nerves healthy
- Maintain a healthy blood sugar level
- Exercise regularly
- Avoid cramped positions that will put pressure on your nerves
- Avoid exposure to toxic chemicals, smoking and reduce alcohol consumption