Peripheral Neuropathy: An Overview
Peripheral neuropathy is a painful and potentially debilitating disease that affects more than 3 million Americans every year. Peripheral neuropathy is the result of nerve damage that leads to weakness, numbness or painful sensations in the limbs. Because of this, muscle movement may become impaired and can prevent normal sensation in the arms and legs, leading to severe pain.
The peripheral nervous system carries information between the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) to the rest of the body. For example, peripheral nerves relay information to the brain such as ‘your feet are cold’ or ‘that pot is hot.’ We are then able to react to these signals by finding comfort by warming up our feet, or by dropping the hot pot.
Signals are also sent to our muscles and tell them to contract, which is how we move. These signals control everything from voluntary to involuntary movement including our heart, digestion, urination, sexual function, bones, and immune system.
When the nerves between the brain and the body are injured or damaged, it’s as if there is a break in the lines of communication between our brain and other parts of the body.
What Causes Peripheral Neuropathy?
Although diabetes is a common cause of peripheral neuropathy, it may also result from acquired neuropathies. Acquired neuropathies are caused by environmental factors including toxins, trauma, illness or infection. The following are examples of acquired neuropathies:
Autoimmune diseases. Sjogren’s syndrome, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Guillain-Barre syndrome, HIV, chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy and necrotizing vasculitis may all cause peripheral neuropathy.
Diabetes. More than 50 percent of diabetes patients will develop peripheral neuropathy.
Exposure to poisons. Toxic substances include heavy metals or chemicals.
Medications. Certain medications such as fluoroquinolones—which are prescribed to treat infections.
Trauma on the nerve. Motor vehicle collisions, slip and falls or sports injuries can potentially sever or damage peripheral nerves.
Poor nutrition or vitamin deficiencies. Certain vitamins including B-1, B-6, B-12, and vitamin E are crucial to nerve health.
Other diseases. Kidney disease, liver disease, connective tissue disorders, and underactive thyroid may cause peripheral neuropathy.
Hereditary neuropathies are diseases of the peripheral nerves that parents genetically pass on to their children. However, this type of neuropathy is not as common.
One-third of all neuropathies are from an unknown cause. These are classified as idiopathic neuropathies.
Because people with chronic polyneuropathy often lose their ability to sense temperature and pain, they can burn themselves and develop open sores as the result of injury or prolonged pressure.
Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy
Symptoms range from mild to disabling depending on the type of nerve fibers affected and the type and severity of damage.
- Pins and needles sensation, pain in the back, face foot, hand or thigh, numbness and
- Reduced sensation of touch
- Sensitivity to pain
- Uncomfortable tingling and burning
- Loss of reflexes
- Change in sensation to light touch, pain or temperature
Symptoms may develop rapidly and may be permanent which makes it critical that you see a healthcare provider if you suspect you are suffering from peripheral neuropathy. Early diagnosis and treatment will offer the best chance for controlling symptoms and preventing further damage to the peripheral nerves.
Other Forms of Peripheral Neuropathy
Mononeuropathy occurs when peripheral neuropathy affects a single nerve. An example of mononeuropathy is carpal tunnel syndrome. Similarly, if two or more nerves in different areas are concerned, then the individual has multiple mononeuropathies. However, polyneuropathy is the most common type of peripheral neuropathy and as the name suggests, affects many nerves.
Treatment options for Peripheral Neuropathy
If the nerve cells are not dead, they may regenerate slowly, and symptoms may improve with time and treatment. It is essential to understand that nerves have a limited ability to regenerate which means treatments may only stop the progression of neuropathy instead of curing the existing nerve damage altogether. Some treatments include:
Sticking to a healthy lifestyle. Maintaining a healthy weight by exercising and eating a balanced diet are helpful. It is also essential to avoid exposure to toxins and limit alcohol consumption.
Medication. Your healthcare provider may prescribe painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs, topical anesthetics, vitamin supplements and more.
Mobility Aids. Some patients may not be able to walk and will require crutches, a cane or a wheelchair for mobility assistance.
The link between peripheral neuropathy and fluoroquinolones
The FDA has issued a Drug Safety Communication advising the public about the dangers of fluoroquinolones antibiotic use and their serious side effects. Fluoroquinolones rank number four in the most prescribed antibiotic nationwide, given to 33 million Americans in 2013. Some of these antibiotics include Cipro and Levaquin. The FDA has associated the use of fluoroquinolones with disabling and potentially permanent side effects that cause a substantial disruption to a person’s ability to conduct a normal life.
If you or a loved one developed peripheral neuropathy after you were given a fluoroquinolone prescription, you might be entitled to compensation.
How The Carlson Law Firm can help
At The Carlson Law Firm, we have devoted decades to protecting the rights and futures of injured victims and families. If you or someone you love has suffered adverse effects after taking fluoroquinolones, let us analyze your case and determine if you qualify for a Fluoroquinolones injury claim. We have the resources required to protect your rights against large companies and seek maximum compensation on your behalf. Contact an experienced Fluoroquinolones Lawsuit Attorney as soon as possible.
- Written by Adriana Torres