Neuropathy—also called peripheral neuropathy—is a group of disorders that occur when the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord (the peripheral nervous system) are damaged. Neuropathy usually causes pain in the hands and feet and is most commonly the result of damage to the nerve axons (also called fibers, the long projections of a nerve cell which conduct electrical impulses). Neuropathy can result from traumatic injuries, exposure to toxins, serious infections, or metabolic disorders.
Neuropathy can be classified in one of three categories:
- Mononeuropathy: A single nerve is involved.
- Multiple Mononeuropathy: Two or more nerves are affected, but individually.
- Polyneuropathy: All peripheral nerves are generally involved in some way.
How Neuropathy Affects Different Nerves
The symptoms of neuropathy depend on the type of nerves affected as well as their location. If damage has occurred to a motor nerve, symptoms may include muscle weakness, cramps, and spasms as well as loss of balance and coordination. Patients may have trouble walking or running, and may easily get tired or fall.
If damage occurs in a sensory nerve, individuals may experience tingling, numbness, pinching, or pain. They may also have difficulties determining their position. Neuropathy affecting sensory nerves can cause extreme pain or can lead to an absence of sensation where nothing at all can be felt.
Neuropathy affecting autonomic nerves can be extremely serious, as autonomic nerves control the internal organs and involuntary functions. Symptoms of autonomic neuropathy include abnormal blood pressure and heart rates, bowel and bladder dysfunction, sexual dysfunction, and the loss of the ability to sweat.
The condition can be treated in a variety of ways. Treatments range from surgical intervention to prescribed medications like antidepressants or anticonvulsants. Neuropathy is a serious medical condition. It is treatable, and sometimes damage can be reversed, but most people are left suffering from symptoms for the rest of their lives.
Radiculopathy: Neuropathy of the Spine
Radiculopathy is a type of neuropathy that occurs in the spine, chiefly affecting the nerve root (the portion of the nerve leaving the central nervous system). While radiculopathy starts along the spine, symptoms can radiate to the part of the body affected by that particular nerve, leading to additional symptoms.
Radiculopathy is caused when nerves become inflamed or pinched, or stop working effectively, due to a lack of proper blood flow or excessive pressure from surrounding bones, muscle, cartilage, or tendons. Activities that place heavy or repetitive loads on the spine put individuals at risk of developing radiculopathy.
The most common symptoms of radiculopathy are pain, numbness, and/or tingling in the arms or legs. Patients also frequently experience neck or back pain. If radiculopathy causes radiating pain down a lower extremity, it is also known as sciatica. While rare, some individuals may also develop oversensitivity to touch or muscle weakness.
Radiculopathy can often be treated by non-invasive procedures such as prescription anti-inflammatories, physical therapy, or chiropractic care. With treatment and rest, people can see an improvement in symptoms as early as six weeks after their onset. If, however, symptoms don't improve, epidural steroid injections can help by quickly reducing nerve inflammation and irritation. In some cases, patients require surgery to decompress the affected nerve.
Winning Compensation for Victims of Neuropathy
Neuropathy and its associated symptoms are often the results of traumatic impact or repetitive stress—which is why many workers in high-risk industries suffer from them. Years of accumulated injuries (or one severe injury) can subject victims to a lifetime of pain and impaired function. Employers and insurance companies ought to compensate for these injuries. When they refuse to do so voluntarily, you need an attorney to hold them accountable. Arnold & Itkin has obtained billions in compensation for the injured. If you have been diagnosed with neuropathy from negligence, an on-the-job accident, or exposure to toxic chemicals, you may be entitled to compensation.
Contact a personal injury attorney from Arnold & Itkin today for a free review of the facts in your case—we can help you get the answers and vital medical care you need.