Did you know that neuropathy doesn’t only affect the legs and feet? Neuropathy is a term that means “nerve damage or defect”. You have billions of nerves all over your body, and any number of them can become damaged from wear or tear, injuries, and chronic conditions. There are types of neuropathy such as cranial (in the brain), optic (eyes), auditory (ears) and more. Some types of neuropathy are grouped by location or by the condition that causes your symptoms. Learn about the different types of neuropathy, where they can happen and why!
Your body is an amazing machine that conducts countless bodily processes that you don’t even have to think about. Your heart beating, your body breathing, circulation, eye movements and blinking, etc., are all done through the nervous system of the body. Once machines are programmed, they can perform their work flawlessly, and may even do it for years without a single problem. Your body is the same. You have about 100 billion nerves in your body, all of which are small powerhouses that help you body run and they take in information as they do it.
Your body moves, receives information about everything you come in contact with, and performs your most important functions through your nervous system. However, just one of your small, delicate nerves breaking down can cause a glitch in your machine (or your body). You may notice a toe or part of your leg that is numb when you perform certain movements, or if you are injured. Or, you may suddenly have chronic pain, burning, tingling, itching or more that you didn’t previously have.
These are neuropathy symptoms in the body, and they are messages to you that you have nerve damage or a nerve defect somewhere that needs help getting back on track. Symptoms can be a nuisance for patients, especially if those symptoms continue for years. However, having symptoms can also be a good thing, because you can pinpoint where a nerve is hurt and can better decide on treatment to get your body working properly once more.
Over 20 million people in the United States alone have neuropathy symptoms. Back pain and it’s accompanying symptoms are some of the most common cases of neuropathy. This is no surprise, as the back is where the spine is located, which protects your spinal cord. This is the biggest collection of nerves in your body besides your brain, which gives you more nerves that can be damaged.
Over 31 million Americans have lower back pain, which can cause neuropathy symptoms from damaged nerves. Countless other millions have back pain and neuropathy symptoms in other parts of their back and neck. Another extremely common area for neuropathy symptoms to happen is the legs. Patients with diabetes often have high blood sugar (glucose) levels that damage delicate nerve fibers in the body. This nerve damage happens in the legs and feet because of poor circulation. A patient will then stop feeling areas of their feet and legs, which can also experience tissue death because blood and oxygen aren’t reaching those tissues. Nerves need blood circulation and nutrients to keep functioning.
Not all patients with diabetes will have neuropathy in their legs and feet, but it is extremely common. If you have neuropathy in these areas, it also doesn’t mean you have diabetes. The legs and feet make up a large portion of your body (as well as the back), which is also why these are the most common areas for neuropathy and nerve damage.
Did you know that neuropathy symptoms can actually happen anywhere in your body? This is because you have nerves in literally every part of your body. Your body is designed to take in information from every cell and molecule, and it does this through the nervous system. Think of this system as being composed of tiny communication devices that are placed really close together all over. Those devices stay in place and when something happens, they whisper information to their neighbor, another communication device. In rapid succession, that information gets sent to your brain.
All of this communication between millions of neurons and nerves happens in less than a second. When you touch something hot, you know immediately because of the communication that happened between your nerves and your brain. Because your nerves are placed in every part of your body, that means neuropathy can happen in any part of the body. Your neuropathy symptoms and where they happen all depend on the patient. The most common areas in the body to get neuropathy include the back, hands, arms, feet, legs, back, neck and even the face.
Because your specific type of neuropathy can happen anywhere, it will be named for the nerves that are affected such as:
We mentioned that patients with diabetes often have neuropathy. If that is you, make sure you go the extra mile with your health, diet, exercise and more. Eat a very healthy diet and keep healthy blood-glucose levels if you want healthy nerves. Get up and get moving each day, making sure to get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise in each week. Keeping up your circulation is vital to keeping nerves healthy. When you have neuropathy symptoms that don’t go away, enlist the help of a physical therapist. They can help you with treatments such as electrostimulation, specific stretches and exercises, nutrition help, heat therapy and more to help restore healing. Never let your symptoms go on for long, as this can lead to permanent damage.