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What Is Neuropathic Pain?

Nerve damage can affect the body's reflexes.
Cigarette smoking may worsen neuropathic pain.
Some patients find medication can help relieve neuropathic pain.
A patient's coordination and reflexes will be tested if a doctor suspects neuropathic pain.
Shingles cause neuropathic pain.
Article Details
  • Written By: Jacquelyn Gilchrist
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 23 October 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Neuropathic pain is caused by neuropathy, or nerve damage. Peripheral neuropathy is an often painful condition that refers to nerve damage that extends to the extremities, such as the feet or hands. This condition is often treatable, however it may take time for symptoms to improve. A doctor can prescribe medications to treat neuropathic pain. Home remedies may also help improve symptoms.

Pain caused by neuropathy is often described as burning, tingling, or jabbing. Nerve damage also causes loss of sensation in the affected area, so the patient will likely experience numbness. Patients may also experience coordination or balance problems, especially if the nerve damage affects the feet. The skin over the area may also be sensitive to touch. Sometimes, neuropathy can affect other areas of the body, resulting in muscle weakness, paralysis, or incontinence.

Peripheral neuropathy is often caused by diabetes. Uncontrolled blood sugar levels can lead to nerve damage. Vitamin deficiencies may also result in neuropathic pain. B-complex vitamins and vitamin E are both important for proper nerve function, so anyone with a poor diet can be suseptible to this condition.

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Neuropathic pain may also be caused by pressure on the nerve caused by a trauma or injury, such as a car crash. An infection or an autoimmune disease may also be the culprit. Neuropathy may result from conditions like lupus, shingles, or rheumatoid arthritis. Exposure to toxins, such as heavy metals, may also cause neuropathic pain. Patients receiving chemotherapy may also develop neuropathy.

A doctor may require several different tests to accurately diagnose neuropathic pain. He will likely perform a neurological and physical exam to check factors such as coordination and reflexes. Blood tests can reveal the patient’s blood sugar stability and vitamin levels. The doctor may also need x-rays to check for any abnormalities. Electromyography can test the ability of the patient’s nerves to transmit electrical impulses.

After the patient has been properly diagnosed, the doctor can recommend a course of treatment. Neuropathic pain can be treated with medications, such as pain relievers and anti-seizure drugs. Tricyclic antidepressant medications can also relieve neuropathic pain. Some patients may prefer to use a topical medication, such as a lidocaine patch, which can be applied directly to the affected area.

Lifestyle remedies may also alleviate pain. Diabetics can improve neuropathy by maintaining stable blood sugar levels. Exercise may also help. Cigarette smoking can worsen any problems due to interference with circulation, so a doctor may advise a smoker to quit. Massaging the affected areas may help improve circulation.

Patients whose feet are affected by neuropathy should avoid shoes that fit tightly. If the feet are numb, the patient may not notice if he has sustained injury to the area. To avoid possible infection, the patient will need to check his feet daily for cuts or blisters. Additionally, avoiding prolonged pressure on the area can help prevent further nerve damage. By adhering to a comprehensive treatment plan, patients may be able to improve their neuropathy.

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