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The nervous system is comprised of an extensive matrix of nerves and neurons that are used to transmit signals to control and affect every area. When everything is functioning normally, it is easy to take this remarkable system for granted. When a problem like peripheral neuropathy arises, though, it is easy to see exactly how much the nervous system does.

The Peripheral Nervous System

The nervous system is responsible for controlling how we move, experience the world, and process information. To accomplish those objectives, the nervous system is actually divided into two different components – the central and peripheral nervous systems.

The central nervous system is comprised of the spinal cord and brain, and this is where the processing of information occurs. The peripheral nervous system consists of a network of peripheral nerves running throughout the body to collect and transmit information back to the central nervous system.

Peripheral Neuropathy

When we discuss neuropathy, our focus is mainly on the peripheral nerves, since they are often affected. Peripheral neuropathy can be thought of as a condition marked by an interruption in the internal communication processes that happen between the brain and body.

The most significant risk factor for developing neuropathy tends to be diabetes, but there are certainly others. Alcohol abuse, various infections, family history, exposure to toxins, and autoimmune disorders can contribute to increasing the likelihood of neuropathy.

Complications from Nerve Damage

An individual who has diabetic neuropathy and peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is at increased risk for Charcot foot and tissue death (gangrene). Charcot foot can happen when diminished blood flow from PAD weakens the bones in the foot. When bones break from the forces that come with walking, the brain is unaware (on account of the nerve damage) and the individual will continue to perform normal activities. This creates a cycle wherein severe deformity results.

Another major complication for those who have diabetic neuropathy is that a cut, scrape, or other injury can open the door for a possible infection, which the body has a diminished capacity to fight. Left untreated, severe infection may set in and lead to gangrene. There is no way to reverse this damage and amputation is often required.

Treatment Options

In most cases, the objective of treatment is to relieve symptoms and manage the condition that causes the neuropathy. With regards to relieving symptoms, medication and various therapies may be prescribed. Medication options include pain relievers, capsaicin, anti-seizure medications, and even antidepressants. Therapies may entail electrical nerve stimulation, plasma exchange, or physical therapy to improve movement.

In some cases, surgery may be necessary to relieve pressure from a tumor that is pressing on a nerve and blocking signals.

Neuropathy Prevention

As we look at how to prevent this condition from developing, there are two essential paths that can help – making healthy lifestyle choices and managing underlying conditions. Lifestyle choices provide benefit by keeping nerves strong and healthy. These choices include:

  • Exercising regularly. There are countless benefits to working out on a regular basis, including reducing the risk of neuropathy. Check with our office and your physician before beginning an exercise program, but make sure you get 30-60 minutes of physical activity at least three times a week.
  • Avoiding various risk factors. Cramped positions for extended periods of time, repetitive motions, excessive alcohol intake, smoking, and exposure to toxic chemicals should be avoided.
  • Eating a proper diet. Strong, healthy nerves need proper nutrition. This is provided by foods like whole grains, lean protein, vegetables, fruits, and low-fat dairy products. Vitamin B-12 is particularly beneficial and found in dairy products, eggs, fish, lean meats, and fortified cereals (preferably those that are low in sugar).

The Nerve Care You Need in Ebensburg, PA

Peripheral neuropathy puts your feet at risk for serious medical conditions and emergencies, but our foot doctors here at Premier Podiatry Group, P.C. provide the care you need. In addition to expert treatment, we also offer tips and advice to keep you safe, especially if you require assistance with diabetic foot care.

Contact our Ebensburg, PA office for additional information from our friendly staff by calling (814) 472-2660. You can also take advantage of our online form to request your appointment with us today.