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Neuropathy

Neuropathy is a result of damage to nerves to a specific area.  It can lead to feelings of pain, burning, numbness, or any other different type of feeling.  It can also lead to loss of sensation to a specific area, such as the fingers or toes.  There are many conditions or diseases that can lead to neuropathy.  It is important to go to your doctor for a full evaluation if you are experiencing symptoms of neuropathy for a complete workup and to find out the cause of the neuropathy to prevent it from getting worse.  This is especially true if the neuropathy is new or acute. 

Causes

  • Metabolic Disease (Diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, thyroid diease, porphyria amyloidosis)
  • Vitamin Deficiencies (Vitamin B1, Vitamin B12, Vitamin A, Vitamin E)
  • Medications
  • Traumatic injury 
  • Alcoholism
  • Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy
  • Genetic disease (Friedrich’s Ataxia, Fabry’s Disease, Charcot Marie Tooth, HNPP)
  • Inflammatory / Autoimmune / Infection (Guillan-Barre syndrome, Lupus, Leprosy, Multiple Sclerosis, Sjogren’s syndrome, Babesiosis, Lyme Disease, Vasculitis, Sarcoidosis, HIV, Cancer, Shingles, MGUS, Vasculitis, Sarcoidosis)

Signs and Symptoms

Neuropathy causes changes to any normal nerve function.  It can be a “loss of function” such as numbness, tremors, balance problems, difficulty walking, inability to feel sensations such as hot and cold or where a body part is.  It can also have “positive symptoms” such as pain, tingling, itching, crawling, burning, and pins and needles.  
Symptoms can present anywhere in the body.  They commonly start in the hands and feet but can be anywhere.  It can affect one single nerve (mononeuropathy) or multiple nerves (polyneuropathy).    
There can also be “autonomic signs” which can include erectile dysfunction, digestive problems, cardiac problems, balance problems, and respiratory problems.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis is made by visiting a doctor who may refer you to a neurologist.  Below are some of the tests or procedures that may be conducted to establish a diagnosis.

  • Thorough history
  • Physical Exam
  • Nerve conduction study
  • Electromyography
  • Biopsy
  • Autonomic testing
  • Blood tests
  • Imaging

Treatment

Treatment starts with finding the etiology or reason why someone has neuropathy.  This is very important in order to prevent symptoms from worsening. 

For symptomatic treatment there are a range of options including physical therapy, medications, electric devices.  Please speak to your doctor about different treatment options.  Among them, NY state has established medical marijuana as one of those treatment options. 

Medical Marijuana

Patients living with neuropathy can be certified for medical marijuana by an authorized provider in NY.  Medical marijuana can potentially help sufferers alleviate the burden of neuropathy.

Resources

The Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy – https://www.foundationforpn.org/ 

Neuropathy Action Foundation – http://www.neuropathyaction.org/