At least 20 million Americans have peripheral neuropathy, a group of more than 100 medical conditions that affect the nerves outside of your central nervous system. Although there are many types of neuropathy, the symptoms among all these types are similar, depending a lot on the type of nerves that are affected.
Patients in Carmel, Kokomo, and Indianapolis, Indiana, turn to Jonathan Gentile, MD, for neuropathy treatment and symptom relief, benefiting from the patient-centered approach he uses in diagnosing and managing nerve-related conditions. If you have neuropathy, here’s how he can help you.
Why neuropathy happens
Together with your central nervous system (your brain and spinal cord), your peripheral nerves comprise a complex communication network that supports many functions, including movement, sensation, and even breathing.
Nerves capture “data” from one tiny part of your body, transmitting that data along nerve pathways to your central nervous system, which interprets the data. The central nervous system uses those same pathways to “tell” your body how to react with the nerve data it receives.
Neuropathy happens when the nerves or their signaling processes (or both) are damaged or altered, resulting in:
- Disruption or interruption in the signaling process
- Interference along the signaling pathways
- “Distortion” in the signals or the way they’re interpreted
Lots of factors can cause or contribute to neuropathy, including physical trauma, systemic diseases, neurological disorders, and even some medications. Treatment depends on the underlying cause, as well as the type of nerves that are affected.
Three types of nerves
There are three types of nerves that can be affected by neuropathy. If you have neuropathy, it might affect just one type of nerves, or it might affect two or all three types.
Motor nerves are the nerves associated with all the movements you make. These nerves carry signals from your muscles to your brain and back again, “telling” the muscles when to contract and relax.
Motor nerves help you complete all sorts of activities, including complex and simple activities, like walking, buttoning a shirt, and brushing your teeth. Neuropathy that affects these nerves can cause symptoms, such as weakness, muscle cramps, and problems coordinating movements.
Sensory nerves are the nerves that provide you with sensations and information about your body’s movements. These nerves have endings that are sensitive to touch, allowing you to feel differences in textures and temperatures.
When neuropathy affects your sensory nerves, you’ll probably have symptoms like numbness, tingling, or electricity-like pain. Many people develop an extreme sensitivity to touch, and even light stimulation of their skin causes discomfort or pain.
Most of us are aware of what our motor and sensory nerves are doing. But autonomic nerves are a little different. These nerves work “in the background,” controlling activities like breathing, perspiration, heart rate, and digestion.
Neuropathy affecting autonomic nerves causes symptoms, including changes in heart rate, excessive sweating, dizziness, changes in your bowel habits or urination, changes in your pupil size, nausea, or problems swallowing.
Many people with neuropathy find relief with medication tailored to their specific symptoms and type of neuropathy. Dr. Gentile manages medication closely, tailoring and adjusting each patient’s dosing and type of medicine for optimal relief.
When medication doesn’t provide adequate symptom relief, Dr. Gentile frequently recommends spinal cord stimulation (SCS). This minimally invasive, outpatient treatment implants a tiny device designed to treat chronic nerve-related pain.
With regular follow-up visits, you and Dr. Gentile will work together as a team, so you can enjoy long-term symptom relief and prevent more serious nerve damage.
Neuropathy can take a big toll on your wellness and your quality of life. To learn more about neuropathy treatment, book an appointment online or over the phone with Dr. Gentile today.