What is peripheral polyneuropathy and how to treat it

Peripheral polyneuropathy arises when severe damage occurs to various peripheral nerves, which carry information from the brain, and spinal cord, to the rest of the body, causing symptoms such as weakness, tingling and persistent pain.

Although this disease most often affects the feet and hands, it can affect the entire body and usually happens as a complication of diabetes, exposure to toxic substances or infections, for example.

In most cases the symptoms improve with the treatment of the disease that is causing the nerve damage, but in other situations, it may be necessary to maintain the constant use of medications to control the symptoms and improve the quality of life.

Main symptoms

The symptoms of peripheral polyneuropathy vary according to the affected sites, however, the most common include:

  • Stabbing pain or persistent burning;
  • Constant tingling that gets more intense;
  • Difficulty moving your arms and legs;
  • Frequent falls;
  • Hypersensitivity in the hands or feet.

As the disease progresses, other more important nerves may be affected, such as those of the breath or those of the bladder, resulting in other symptoms such as difficulty in breathing or holding the pee, for example.

These symptoms can appear and develop over several months or years and, therefore, often go unnoticed, until more serious problems arise.

What causes polyneuropathy

Polyneuropathy is usually caused by progressive nerve damage, resulting from metabolic diseases, such as diabetes, or autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or Sjogren's syndrome. However, infections, exposure to toxic substances, and even heavy knocks can also cause nerve problems and result in polyneuropathy.

In more rare cases, polyneuropathy can even appear without any apparent cause and, there, it is known as idiopathic peripheral polyneuropathy.

How the treatment is done

When polyneuropathy appears as a complication of another disease, treatment needs to be started with the control of that disease. Thus, in the case of diabetes, for example, it is important to be careful with food or to start using insulin, since if the cause is caused by an autoimmune disease, it may be recommended to start the use of drugs that reduce the immune system.

If the symptoms appear without an apparent cause or due to another problem that cannot be treated, the doctor may prescribe some remedies to relieve the symptoms, such as:

  • Anti-inflammatories: such as Ibuprofen or Nimesulide;
  • Antidepressants: such as Amitriptyline, Duloxetine or Verflaxacin;
  • Anticonvulsants: such as Gabapentin, Pregabalin or Topiramate.

However, in the most severe cases, it may also be necessary to use drugs derived from opioids, such as tramadol or morphine, which have a more potent action, but which, as they create addiction, are only used in cases where it is not possible to control pain with the other remedies.

In addition, it may also be recommended to do complementary therapy, with acupuncture or phytotherapy, for example, to reduce the doses of medications.