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What Is Peripheral Neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathy describes damage to the peripheral nervous system, the vast communications network that transmits information from the brain and spinal cord (the central nervous system) to every other part of the body. Peripheral nerves also send sensory information back to the brain and spinal cord, such as a message that the feet are cold or a finger is burned. Damage to the peripheral nervous system interferes with these vital connections. Like static on a telephone line, peripheral neuropathy distorts and sometimes interrupts messages between the brain and the rest of the body. Because every peripheral nerve has a highly specialized function in a specific part of the body, a wide array of symptoms can occur when nerves are damaged. Some people may experience temporary numbness, tingling, and pricking sensations (paresthesia), sensitivity to touch, or muscle weakness. Others may suffer more extreme symptoms, including burning pain (especiallyat night), muscle wasting, paralysis, or organ or gland dysfunction. People may become unable to digest food easily, maintain safe levels of blood pressure, sweat normally, or experience normal sexual function. In the most extreme cases, breathing may become difficult or organ failure may occur. Some forms of neuropathy involve damage to only one nerve and are called mononeuropathies. More often though, multiple nerves affecting all limbs are affected-called polyneuropathy. Occasionally, two or more isolated nerves in separate areas of the body are affected-called mononeuritis multiplex. In acute neuropathies, such as Guillain-Barré syndrome, symptoms appear suddenly, progress rapidly, and resolve slowly as damaged nerves heal. In chronic forms, symptoms begin subtly and progress slowly. Some people may have periods of relief followed by relapse. Others may reach a plateau stage where symptoms stay the same for many months or years. Some chronic neuropathies worsen over time, but very few forms prove fatal unless complicated by other diseases. Occasionally the neuropathy is a symptom of another disorder. In the most common forms of polyneuropathy, the nerve fibers (individual cells that make up the nerve) most distant from the brain and the spinal cord malfunction first. Pain and other symptoms often appear symmetrically, for example, in both feet followed by a gradual progression up both legs. Next, the fingers, hands, and arms may become affected, and symptoms can progress into the central part of the body. Many people with diabetic neuropathy experience this pattern of ascending nerve damage. How Are the Peripheral Neuropathies Classified? More than 100 types of peripheral neuropathy have been identified, each with its own characteristic set of symptoms, pattern of development, and prognosis. Impaired function and symptoms depend on the type of nerves-motor, sensory, or autonomic-that are damaged. Motor nerves control movements of all muscles under conscious control, such as those used for walking, grasping things, or talking. Sensory nerves transmit information about sensory experiences, such as the feeling of a light touch or the pain resulting from a cut. Autonomic nerves regulate biological activities that people do not control consciously, such as breathing, digesting food, and heart and gland functions. Although some neuropathies may affect all three types of nerves, others primarily affect one or two types. Therefore, doctors may use terms such as predominantly motor neuropathy, predominantly sensory neuropathy, sensory-motor neuropathy, or autonomic neuropathy to describe a patient’s condition.

NEUROPATHY (Peripheral and Lower Extremities) Emerging research confirms that neuropathy is primarily caused by a lack of oxygen. This can be the result of poor blood circulation, pinching of sciatic nerve or its local blood supply, too much glucose in the blood, or toxic chemicals (prescription drugs, pesticides, cleaning solvents or substance abuse) creating excessive free radicals that negate available oxygen. When the nerve cell is deprived of oxygen it contracts, making itself smaller to conserve oxygen and this enlarges the gap (synaptic junction) between nerve cells. Nerve cells do not come into contact with one another. A nerve impulse must jump across this gap. When the gap gets too big, the electrical nerve impulse cannot make the transition across this gap, and nerve function is impaired. Briefly, oxygen increases the voltage and shortens the gap. Of the estimated 20 million people in the United States with diabetes, 3 million struggle with DPN – and even patients with pre-diabetes and impaired glucose (blood sugar) tolerance may have symptoms. The older the person is, the longer he or she has had diabetes, and the less-controlled the disease, the greater chance of feeling pain because of damaged nerves. Fifty percent of patients with long-standing diabetes have numbness, burning, electrical sensations, stabbing, or shooting pain in their feet or legs—and it’s usually worse at night. While the pain is uncomfortable, the lack of sensation can have even worse consequences. If a person’s shoes fit improperly, are too tight, have rough spots inside, or rub when the person walks, the blisters, abrasions or cuts may not be felt. Because circulation is not as good as it is for people without diabetes, these wounds can become infected and very difficult to heal. When prescription pain medications are administered, the primary goal is to numb the nerve roots at the level of the spine. In this way, the pain signals cannot reach the brain thus these dysfunctional nerve signals are not perceived as pain. In time the body becomes resilient to medications, requiring periodic dosage increases. This leads to numbness in the extremities, fuzzy thinking and loss of perception of knowing where your feet are in time and space. These symptoms can mimic Alzheimer’s and compound your medical situation. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy has been known to be effective in controlling and reversing the pain and dysfunction associated with diabetic and non-diabetic neuropathies of the arms, hands, legs and feet.

Hyperbaric oxygen promotes healthy nerve function through healing instead of pain cover-up;

• Reduces swelling, increases energy production for nerve restoration

• Eliminates inflammation, allowing healing to occur

• Improves blood cell health, thus improving oxygen carrying and delivery efficiency

• Enhances white cell activity against unfriendly bacteria & fungi at higher oxygen pressures

• Facilitates the elimination of bone infections as above

• Reduces the operations and deaths associated with poor circulation-related tissue infections

• Neovascularization (new capillary and blood vessel growth) promoting nerve health

• HBOT promotes better tissue survival and healing of damaged tissue Sample Studies & Reviews: Neurogenic Pain – Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Attenuates Neuropathic Hyperalgesia in Rats and Idiopathic Trigeminal Neuralgia In Patients.

Peripheral Neuropathy: Understanding Nerve Damage

Peripheral neuropathy is a condition characterized by damage to the peripheral nervous system, an extensive network responsible for transmitting information between the brain, spinal cord (central nervous system), and the rest of the body. This network not only facilitates communication from the brain to various body parts but also relays sensory information back to the brain, such as temperature changes or pain sensations.

When the peripheral nervous system is compromised, it disrupts these vital connections, much like static interference on a telephone line, leading to distortions and potential interruptions in the messages between the brain and the body.

Since each peripheral nerve serves a specific function in a particular body part, the symptoms of nerve damage can vary significantly. Some individuals may experience temporary numbness, tingling, and prickling sensations, increased sensitivity to touch, or muscle weakness. In more severe cases, people may suffer from intense burning pain, muscle wasting, paralysis, or dysfunction of organs or glands. This can result in difficulties with digestion, blood pressure regulation, sweating, or sexual function. In extreme instances, breathing may become challenging, or organ failure may occur.

The two main types of neuropathy are mononeuropathies, where damage affects only one nerve, and polyneuropathy, where multiple nerves in various limbs are impacted. There are also cases of mononeuritis multiplex, wherein two or more isolated nerves in separate areas of the body are affected.

Neuropathy can manifest acutely, as seen in Guillain-Barré syndrome, with sudden symptom onset, rapid progression, and slow resolution as the damaged nerves heal. Alternatively, some individuals may experience chronic forms of neuropathy, with subtle symptoms that progress slowly, potentially with periods of relief and relapse. While some chronic neuropathies worsen over time, very few are fatal unless complicated by other medical conditions. In certain instances, neuropathy can be a symptom of an underlying disorder.

Classifying peripheral neuropathies involves identifying over 100 types, each with its own set of symptoms, development pattern, and prognosis. The specific functions of the nerves affected (motor, sensory, or autonomic) determine the symptoms and impaired functions. Motor nerves control voluntary movements, sensory nerves transmit sensory experiences, and autonomic nerves regulate involuntary bodily activities.

Recent research suggests that neuropathy primarily arises from a lack of oxygen supply to nerve cells. This can result from poor blood circulation, compression of the sciatic nerve or its local blood supply, elevated glucose levels in the blood, or exposure to toxic chemicals like certain prescription drugs, pesticides, cleaning solvents, or substance abuse. Oxygen deprivation causes nerve cells to contract, creating larger gaps (synaptic junctions) between them. This inhibits the transmission of electrical nerve impulses and impairs nerve function.

Diabetes, especially when uncontrolled, can lead to diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN) and cause symptoms like numbness, burning sensations, and pain in the feet and legs, often worse at night. Proper sensation loss in the extremities can result in unnoticed injuries and subsequent complications.

While prescription pain medications may temporarily alleviate symptoms, they do not address the underlying issue and can lead to side effects like numbness, fuzzy thinking, and decreased spatial awareness.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) has shown promise in treating diabetic and non-diabetic neuropathies in the arms, hands, legs, and feet. HBOT facilitates nerve healing by reducing swelling, inflammation, and promoting better oxygen delivery. It also enhances white cell activity against harmful bacteria and fungi, supporting tissue healing and improving overall nerve health.