Peripheral neuropathy is a condition that involves a disruption of the neuro-electrical synapses from the brain and spinal cord to the muscles in the limbs and other parts of the body, according to MedlinePlus. The nerves lose their function and thus affect the patient’s ability to feel pain, and they may lose their sense of taste. Among other effects, this results in a loss of muscular control, painful tingling, numbness and loss of sensation. Peripheral neuropathy has several possible causes, among them a lack of Vitamin B12.
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Peripheral neuropathy most commonly appears as a symptom of a disease or injury and has two main variants, as noted by the University of Chicago Center for Peripheral Neuropathy.
Mononeuropathy affects a single nerve group and causes weakness in specific, isolated parts of the body. Examples include carpal tunnel syndrome, which affects the wrist nerves, and peroneal nerve palsy, which affects the nerve behind the knee.
Polyneuropathy affects multiple nerve groups and is far more common than mononeuropathy. The affected nerves are usually in different parts of the body, such as one arm and one leg.
Risk Factors and Causes
Several potential causes for peripheral neuropathy exist. Mononeuropathy is most often caused by physical injury or accident-related trauma. Pressure on a nerve for extended periods is also a very common cause. Polyneuropathy can be caused by a large variety of factors, such as poor nutrition, complications from kidney failure and exposure to specific types of toxins. One possible cause of peripheral neuropathy is chronic deficiency of vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Vitamin B12 is an essential dietary nutrient for maintaining health, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. A deficiency can be caused by several factors. A strict vegetarian diet eliminates the only sources of dietary B12, such as dairy products, fish, red meat, eggs and poultry. Autoimmune diseases, Crohn’s disease, HIV infection, gastritis, malabsorption syndrome and multiple sclerosis can also cause a B12 deficiency.
Patients without enough vitamin B12 are at risk for nerve damage, anemia and degeneration of the spinal cord. Even a relatively mild deficiency can affect brain functions and the nervous system, and the nerve damage may develop into permanent debilitation if left untreated.
Peripheral neuropathy usually manifests in the longer nerves in the body and thus often starts in the hands and feet, as these are the most susceptible to injury and damage, says Pain Clinic. This condition usually affects both sides of the body symmetrically at the same time.
The damage to sensory fibers causes burning sensations, tingling, numbness, nerve pain or an inability to feel one’s joint positioning. This can potentially cause accidents due to the patient’s lack of coordination and inability to feel warning pain. Cramps, loss of muscle mass and loss of muscle control are also associated symptoms.
Several remedies can be used for the pain caused by peripheral neuropathy. These include anti-seizure medications, anti-depressants, lidocaine patches, and general pain relievers. However, proper treatment of peripheral neuropathy involves addressing the root cause of the problem, not just the symptoms.
Addressing vitamin B12 deficiency can help eliminate pain by restoring the nerve sheaths and promoting regeneration of nerve cells. The most direct treatment is increasing the intake of B12. Oral B12 therapy and injections are viable options. Dietary B12 can be boosted by increasing consumption of fish, red meat, dairy products, poultry and B12 supplements.