There are two major misconceptions about neuropathy. The first misconception is that diabetes is always the cause of neuropathy. While diabetes can cause neuropathy, there are least 20 other conditions that can cause neuropathy. Some of those include: spinal problems, thyroid conditions, auto-immune disease such rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, alcoholism, HIV/AIDS, chemotherapy, nutritional deficiencies such as a lack of vitamin B-6 or B-12, injury to the nerves, exposures to toxins such as mercury or inherited conditions such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease.
Another misconception is that neuropathy always causes numbness in the feet. In fact there are a myriad of symptoms ranging from complete numbness to extreme pain. The following are a list of symptoms that are associated with neuropathy: Some of the symptoms that people with the most severe peripheral neuropathy experience:
- Dizziness-Often people with neuropathy experience walking difficulties and balance problems which can cause dizziness.
- Numbness-the most common symptom of neuropathy. This is due to injury to the nerves which blocks nerve impulses to the brain and spinal cord.
- Problems of the muscles and tendons of the feet-which can lead to drop-foot deformity. Typically the first type of nerve that is damaged by neuropathy-are the sensory nerves. These nerves are responsible for sensation such as pain, hot/cold and pressure. As the condition advances the motor nerves can then be affected. The motor nerves are responsible for movement of the muscles, tendons and ligaments. A serious consequence of neuropathy is condition called drop-foot. In this case the person with neuropathy cannot lift up the ankle walking-causing the foot to drag when walking.
A feeling that the body has turned to cement from the waist down, especially upon climbing stairs
- Sexual problems
- Sensations of electric shocks and pins-and-needles over the body. This is due to abnormal nerve impulses. People with neuropathy often experience more severe symptoms at night.
- Severe loss of stamina and chronic fatigue-peripheral neuropathy is a chronic condition. Chronic pain (called neuropathic pain), is wearing on the body from physical and emotional basis. Neuropathy affects what is called proprioception-this is the ability to be aware of the position of the feet relative to the ground. Impaired proprioception contributes to poor balance. The constant struggle to remain upright and to prevent falling takes its toll on the body-causing exhaustion
- The feeling that the feet are burning up. This is due to impaired transmission of nerve impulses to the brain and spinal cord.
- “Ice-cold sensation” in the feet and toes
- The feeling that the feet are swollen or that a person is wearing socks or shoes-when in fact they are barefoot
- The feeling that a person with neuropathy is walking on sandpaper or an uneven surface
- The feeling that the skin is tight