General Practice 2022

Peripheral polyneuropathy: what é, symptoms, causes and treatment

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Peripheral polyneuropathy: what é, symptoms, causes and treatment
Peripheral polyneuropathy: what é, symptoms, causes and treatment

Peripheral polyneuropathy arises when severe damage occurs to several 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, symptoms improve with treatment of the disease causing the nerve damage, but in other situations, it may be necessary to maintain the constant use of medication to control symptoms and improve quality of life.

Main symptoms

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

  • Persistent stabbing or burning pain;
  • Constant tingling that gets more intense;
  • Difficulty moving arms and legs;
  • Frequent falls;
  • Hypersensitivity in hands or feet.

As the disease progresses, other more important nerves may be affected, such as those for breathing or bladder, resulting in other symptoms such as difficulty breathing or holding in 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 Sjögren's syndrome. However, infections, exposure to toxic substances, and even heavy blows can also cause nerve damage and result in polyneuropathy.

In rarer cases, polyneuropathy can even arise without any apparent cause, and then it is known as idiopathic peripheral polyneuropathy.

How the treatment is done

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

Also, if the symptoms appear for no apparent reason 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 serious 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 dependence, are only used in cases where they are not it is possible to control the pain with the other remedies.

Furthermore, it may also be recommended to do a complementary therapy, with acupuncture or herbal medicine, for example, to reduce medication doses.

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