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What's Causing My Neuropathy?

Some 25-30% of people in the United States will develop neuropathy at some point. If you’re among them already, you know how bothersome the symptoms can be. Thankfully, neuropathy can be treated once you and your medical providers know the cause.

At Oexeman Foot and Ankle, PLLC, in Chicago, Illinois, Dr. Stephanie Oexeman and her team diagnose and treat neuropathy and related nerve pain.

Take a few minutes to learn more about neuropathy, including common causes that can affect your feet and ankles.

Neuropathy 101

Neuropathy, also known as peripheral neuropathy, is another term for nerve damage or dysfunction. It can affect one or more nerves and often starts in your hands or feet. 

Depending on which nerves are affected, you might experience:

  • Gradual numbness or prickling sensations in your hands or feet
  • Numbness that spreads to your arms and legs
  • Extreme sensitivity to touch or heat
  • Burning, sharp, or throbbing pain
  • Pain when you put weight on your feet
  • Lack of coordination and falling
  • Muscle weakness
  • Feeling as though you’re wearing socks or gloves when you aren’t
  • Excessive sweating
  • Dizziness from drops in your blood pressure

In severe cases, untreated neuropathy affecting your motor nerves can even lead to paralysis.

Neuropathy causes

A broad range of conditions and scenarios can lead to or worsen neuropathy. While some of these causes are genetic, others derive from lifestyle factors.

Conditions that cause neuropathy include:

  • Autoimmune diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis and Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Diabetes
  • Infections, including Lyme disease, shingles, and HIV
  • Hereditary disorders like Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease
  • Benign or cancerous tumors on your nerves
  • Bone marrow disorders, such as myeloma
  • Thyroid, liver, or kidney disease

Other contributing factors may include alcoholism, a severely restrictive diet, or exposure to poisons, like certain heavy metals and industrial chemicals. Medications, such as chemotherapy drugs and injuries such as falls, sports injuries, or car accident injuries can also be to blame.

What to do about neuropathy

Once you’ve been diagnosed with neuropathy, Dr. Oexeman may recommend conservative or surgical options — depending on your age, the cause of your issues, and your overall health — to relieve your symptoms.

In addition to getting treatment for any underlying condition, she may recommend:

  • Drop foot surgery
  • Implantation of a peripheral nerve stimulator
  • Nerve decompression
  • Nerve grafts and conduits
  • Nerve release
  • Nerve reconstruction repair
  • Ultrasound-guided nerve blocks
  • Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy
  • Revision after failed nerve surgery
  • Targeted nerve transfer
  • Tendon transfer for muscle weakness

With an appropriate treatment plan, you can expect not only less pain, weakness, and numbness, but greater mobility and overall life quality. And neuropathy can grow progressively worse, so the sooner you get started the better.

To learn more about neuropathy or to get the care you need, call our office or book an appointment online today.