How Bad Can Peripheral Neuropathy Get? 

17 Oct

Neuropathy is a painful condition that often gets progressively worse. It happens when the nerve cells become damaged, which means they no longer work properly. Nerve damage can be caused by a variety of different things, including lack of exercise, improper nutrition, disease, illness, medication, and poor maintenance of blood sugar level. The condition is particularly common in diabetics, with between 60% and 70% of diabetics developing neuropathy at some point.

Many people believe that once they are diagnosed with neuropathy, the quality of their life will be degraded for the rest of their life. It is a known fact that this condition is incredibly difficult to treat, with few treatment options being truly effective, and even if they are effective, they often only work for a short period of time. It is also virtually impossible to reverse the condition and while completely overhauling your lifestyle can help, it is often not realistic for many people. Unsurprisingly, many people wonder just how bad the condition can get.

Doctor treating a patient with peripheral neuropathy in her legs.

What Is the Worst Case for Peripheral Neuropathy?

The worst possible scenario for peripheral neuropathy is that you lose all feeling in your feet and hands, possibly leading to paralysis. However, this usually only happens in people who have a significant underlying illness. The downside of that is that their illness often also causes other debilitating side effects.

However, this does not mean that your life is over, or that you are doomed to live either in excruciating pain or being dependent on prescription opioid drugs. The reality is that, with diet and exercise, you can make the pain significantly less. Those who suffer from the worst cases of peripheral neuropathy are usually those who have struggled to maintain their diet. This is particularly true for diabetics, and for those who are alcoholics.

Importance of Seeking Help as Soon as Possible

Another significant issue is that people don’t seek help in time. Peripheral neuropathy usually starts quite small. There may be a few tingling sensations in the finger tips or feet, but nothing major or even painful. Yet those are the first signs of your nerves being in distress. Over time, the symptoms become worse and worse, until they finally seek medical attention. While it is never too late to make a change, it is best to do this as soon as possible, and focusing on healthy living.

It is absolutely imperative, therefore, that you learn to listen to your body. Look out for cramps and weakness, for instance. Nerve damage is also more common in the elderly and in those who aren’t active. Because of this, it can be hard to spot the problem when it first starts to develop. Hence, you must be aware of the risk groups for nerve deterioration (diabetics, the elderly, the inactive) and, if you are in one of those risk groups, you must pay particular attention to your symptoms.

Avoid the Vicious Cycle

One of the reasons why neuropathy can get so bad in some people, is because of the vicious cycle. For instance, those affected may have restricted mobility due to the onset or a flareup of nerve deterioration. Their muscles cramp and are weak, leaving them immobile. Immobility, however, is a main cause of nerve damage itself. This is why it is so important to seek help when you first start to experience symptoms, as those annoying twitches and aches can eventually lead to full paralysis or numbness.

Twitchiness is a particular feeling to look out for. However, there are other feelings as well, such as paresthesia (pins and needles) and numbness, as well as aching pains. Someone who is in the advanced stages of neuropathy will usually experience them, but they may also feel serious burning pain. Some patients also develop surface numbness, which means they may not notice if the affected area is cut or otherwise injured.

Interestingly, it is also common for people with peripheral neuropathy to find it difficult to sweat properly, which is believed to be related to improper blood sugar level. When people cannot sweat, they no longer tolerate heat properly either. Meanwhile, the bladder can also be affected, leading to more infections. As such, people with advanced stages of this condition are also more likely to have to wear urine pads.

Effect on Other Parts of the Body

Neuropathy can affect various other parts of the body as well. For instance, some people start to develop blood pressure problems because their body can no longer regulate blood pressure properly. This then results in a compromised sense of balance. People with this condition frequently feel faint and lightheaded.

The Stomach

Meanwhile, their stomach can also be affected in a variety of different ways. Peripheral neuropathy can also affect the digestive system and the intestines. This can lead to frequent diarrhea and loose stools, with possible dehydration. On the other hand, some may experience constipation.

Digestive System

Meanwhile, the digestive tract and throat can swell, and they can become numb as well. This can make it difficult to eat properly or to swallow food. In the worst case scenario, this can be life-threatening. While this is incredibly rare, it is still important that you are aware of this potential situation, so that you can avoid it before it gets too late.

The Heart

Some people also experience irregular heartbeat, or they may have panic attacks and find it difficult to breathe. While it may be a simple panic attic, it can also be a symptom of neuropathy. It is best to never take any chances and to seek medical advice immediately. If you are wondering how bad peripheral neuropathy can get, the real answer is that it can get very bad indeed. In fact, it can be lethal.

Conclusion

However, you don’t need to find yourself in that situation. It is hard, if not impossible, to reverse this nerve condition in full, but you can reverse the damage to some of the nerve cells, thereby making your overall condition better. You can also treat neuropathy with medication, while committing to eating a healthy diet, consuming the right nutritional supplements, and getting plenty of exercise. In so doing, you will significantly reduce the chances of things truly getting that bad.