Neuropathy is a term that refers to general diseases or malfunctions of the nerves. Nerves at any location in the body can be damaged from injury or disease. It often causes weakness, numbness and pain, usually in your hands and feet. It is often classified according to the types or location of nerves that are affected, as well as the disease causing it. People with nerve pain feel it in different ways. For some, it’s a stabbing sharp pain. For others, symptoms can include a chronic prickling, tingling, or burning.
Pain is supposed to be a warning. When your hand gets too close to a stove, the nerves send a pain signal to the brain, and you pull back before you burn yourself. But if you have nerve damage, your system isn’t working. Damaged nerves may send false signals and you feel real pain, often without a cause. Damaged nerves may also result in you not feeling pain when you have an injury.
Neuropathy Pain Triggers
Some find that certain body positions or activities such as standing in line or walking, become painful. Nerve damage may also make your body overly sensitive. Some people may experience pain from bed sheets draped lightly over the body.
Loss of Feeling
Nerve damage may cause loss of sensation or numbness in the fingertips, making it harder to do things with your hands. Knitting, typing, and tying your shoes may become difficult. Many people with nerve damage say that their sense of touch feels dulled, as if they are always wearing gloves.
Neuropathy and Sleep
Nerve pain is often worse at night. The touch of sheets or the pressure of lying down may be terribly uncomfortable. If you can’t sleep because of your nerve pain, make sure to mention it to your doctor. Modifying lifestyle habits or taking medicine could help.
In addition to dulling your sense of touch, nerve damage can result in muscle weakness or affect your sense of balance. Either of these will lead to falls. Assistive devices like braces, canes or walkers may help. Physical and occupational therapy will also help.
Nerve damage doesn’t just cause pain. It may also cause numbness that may prevent you from feeling pain when it matters. People with nerve damage sometimes injure themselves without realizing it.
Neuropathy Pain Progression
Left untreated, nerve damage may worsen over time. It usually starts in the nerves farthest from the brain and spinal cord, for example in the feet and hands. It then moves up into the legs and arms.
In many cases, nerve pain may be controlled. Start by getting a medical assessment. How long have you had pain? What does it feel like? How does it affect you? The answers will help your doctor figure out what’s causing your pain and how to treat it.
Conditions That Cause Neuropathy
Many conditions, such as diabetes, shingles, and cancer, may cause injury and nerve pain. Some people develop nerve pain for no known reason.
It is important to try to find the underlying cause of your nerve pain, such as uncontrolled diabetes, and seek appropriate treatment for it. It may help ease your pain and stop the progression of damage.
Over-the-counter painkillers may be the first treatment your doctor recommends. These may include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen or prescription medicines. Other options include painkilling creams, ointments, oils, gels, or sprays that are used on the skin. Medicines originally used for depression and epilepsy are often prescribed to relieve nerve pain.
Exercise and Nutrition
In addition to medications, you can take other steps to fight chronic pain. Get regular exercise, maintain a healthy body weight, and exercise.
Watch this informative video from Nucleus Medical Media explaining peripheral nerve pain: