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What you need to know about neuropathy

Posted at 12:23 PM, Jun 29, 2018
and last updated 2019-08-26 16:05:12-04

The brain and nervous system work together to identify threats to the body, keeping you out of harm's way.

But when nerves become damaged and stop functioning, causing neuropathy, misinformation is carried back to the brain, telling you that a part of your body is tingling, numb or in pain.

Symptoms of nerve damage

You might find nerve damage difficult to recognize because it can stem from so many causes. Because nerves are the pathways that communicate sensations to the brain, damage to these messaging centers can produce tingling, burning or numbing sensations in a part of the body.

"Other conditions can cause numbness," according to David Saperstein, MD, a neurologist at HonorHealth Neurology and expert on neuropathy. "But symptoms that start in the feet and involve both sides of the body are most likely to be from neuropathy."



Treating the most common types of neuropathy

The most common treatment regimens for neuropathy, also known as peripheral neuropathy, aim to reduce sensations you’re feeling.

"Unfortunately, we’re unable to impact the underlying cause of most neuropathies," said Dr. Saperstein. "The main focus of treatment is medication that can decrease the pain, including antiseizure or antidepressant medications.”

Not all types of neuropathies are created equal. Nerve damage can also result from autoimmune diseases such as Sjogren’s syndrome, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

"In approximately 5-10 percent of neuropathy patients, the cause is the person's own immune system attacking the nerves. In these cases, there are treatments that can improve or even stop the neuropathy," said Dr. Saperstein.

For certain autoimmune neuropathies, doctors often recommend rounds of intravenous immunoglobulin, or IVIG, a highly purified blood product containing antibodies from a thousand or more plasma donors. The intravenous infusions are given over several hours every three to four weeks, Dr. Saperstein said.  

Contact a neurological specialist

If you're suffering from nerve damage, a neurologist can help determine the affected nerves and what kinds of treatments could ease discomfort.

Learn more about neuropathy on HonorHealth’s website.