What are the Different Kinds of Neuropathy?

What is Neuropathy?

Neuropathy refers to nerves that have been damaged, meaning that the nerves can no longer communicate with the brain. Many individuals diagnosed with this condition report that nerve damage makes it difficult for different body parts, specifically their arms, feet, and legs, to function normally. Additionally, patients have experienced numbness and tingling sensations that can make certain activities difficult, such as walking or sitting. 

There are four different types of neuropathy, which might manifest different symptoms throughout the body. While numbness and tingling sensations throughout the body are normal across the board, certain forms of nerve damage come with additional symptoms. Continue reading this article to learn what symptoms you may experience with different forms of neuropathy. 

At BEST Health System, we believe in providing patients with premier spine and orthopaedic care. At our Cincinnati location, Dr. Keith Girton is our Cincinnati spine surgeon who specializes in neuropathy treatment. Our healthcare professionals believe that patient education is vital for a successful neuropathy treatment process, and we believe that an educated patient is a healthy patient. Continue reading to learn more about the different kinds of neuropathy and the associated symptoms and treatments. 

What Causes Nerve Damage?

Although the exact cause is unknown, nerve damage seems most prevalent in people with diabetes. There is a correlation between high blood pressure and nerve damage. When an individual’s blood glucose levels are too high for a prolonged period, it can interfere with nerves, ultimately hindering their ability to communicate with the brain. 

In addition to diabetes, other underlying conditions have been found to cause nerve damage. Chemotherapy, for example, is known to cause this in many cancer patients. This is due to the severity of the drug and its overall goal to kill fast-growing cells. However, it can sometimes affect healthy cells, often nerves. Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy must tell their specialist if they are experiencing any neuropathy symptoms resulting from their chemotherapy.

Alcoholism is another common cause of nerve damage. Excessive drinking can damage nerve tissue, resulting in severe neuropathy symptoms. Most frequently, individuals with neuropathy due to alcoholism will develop peripheral neuropathy, which interferes with vision and other vital functions.

There are other reasons that an individual may experience nerve damage. You may be more susceptible to nerve damage if diagnosed with autoimmune conditions. It is important to monitor your health and ensure you have routine checkups with your physician to ensure your condition is under control. The following conditions can lead to nerve damage:

  • Sjogren’s Syndrome
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Psoriasis

What are the Different Types of Neuropathy?

There are four types of neuropathy, each of which will manifest different symptoms in the body. The four general types of neuropathy are peripheral, autonomic, proximal, and focal. To simplify and differentiate these conditions, we have provided descriptions of each below. 

Autonomic Neuropathy

Autonomic neuropathy refers to damaged nerves that belong to the autonomic nervous system. If a nerve is damaged, patients experience various symptoms relating to the functioning of autonomic systems such as digestion, urinary functions, reproductive organs, and heart rate.

This is one of the more serious types of nerve damage due to the importance of these systems. Patients with autonomic neuropathy may experience the following symptoms:

  • Inability to control bladder
  • Difficulty digesting
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Irregular sweating

Speak with your doctor if you ever experience severe symptoms that you expect are associated with nerve damage.

Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy refers to a damaged nerve within the peripheral nervous system. This includes your motor nerves, sensory nerves, and autonomic nerves. Peripheral neuropathy is most commonly found in diabetic patients, but it can also be found in others, including cancer patients who have undergone chemotherapy. This condition has many symptoms, but most commonly, patients report a tingling or weakness sensation in their legs, feet, or arms.

Like autonomic, peripheral neuropathy can also impact the digestive system, urinary functions, and circulation. You should always consult with your doctor if you experience any symptoms that you believe are related to nerve damage

Proximal Neuropathy

Also referred to as diabetic amyotrophy, proximal neuropathy is the most uncommon form of nerve damage. Similar to other forms, it is mostly found in elderly patients with diabetes. However, this form manifests different symptoms, making it more difficult to manage the accompanied pain. Proximal neuropathy manifests muscle pain or weakness in the thigh, buttocks, or hip and typically affects one side of the body.

If the pain is not taken care of, it may span over to the other side of the body. Some patients with this condition also report chest and abdominal pain, which is less common. If you have been diagnosed with proximal neuropathy and are seeking treatment, BEST Health System can help. 

Focal Neuropathy

The three prior neuropathies belong to a polyneuropathy group, meaning they can affect many nerves. Focal neuropathy, on the other hand, primarily affects a singular nerve. Most commonly, this affects nerves in the head, making it possible that focal neuropathy can inhibit an individual’s vision. Patients with focal neuropathy may experience a variety of symptoms, including the following:

  • Pain in focused areas
  • Pain around the eyes
  • Chest or abdomen pain
  • Back pain

How Can BEST Health System Help?

BEST Health System is dedicated to providing our patients with premier care to help them find relief for neuropathy pain. Our spine and orthopaedic specialist, Dr. Keith Girton, is our board-certified Cincinnati spine surgeon who has spent his professional career finding solutions for individuals with chronic pain. You are never expected to live with debilitating pain. Contact BEST Health System today and find solutions for your pain.