What is Peripheral Neuropathy (PN)?

PN is a condition where the nerves that carry signals from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body become damaged or diseased, often affecting the hands or feet.

What does PN feel like?

While every person’s experience with peripheral neuropathy can be as unique as the individual himself or herself, there are some common PN signs and symptoms shared by most individuals. The symptoms of diabetic or peripheral neuropathy start in the toes and feet. In some patients the symptoms gradually rise up the calves and into the knees. This is called a stocking pattern. Then, in some the symptoms may also begin in the fingers and hands — causing a stocking and glove pattern. It cannot be predicted how anyone’s symptoms will spread. In some patients, the pain does not spread beyond the toes or feet and there is no progression; in others, the progression to calves and hands occurs in months, rapidly; and yet in others the spread is very gradual, over many years. There are three categories of nerves and up to five specific peripheral nerves that may be affected, and symptoms depend on these nerves and their location:

Patients who develop pain with PN describe the pain using a variety of words, including burning, throbbing, deep ache, raw skin, skin sensitivity, tingling, sharp, electric-like, pins and needles, freezing cold, “like walking on ground glass", itchy, and others. Some patients say they don’t have pain but have unpleasant and irritating sensations (Allodynia), which may include itching, buzzing, “like bugs crawling,” “like leather or sand paper”, “hard ball on bottom of feet”, and aching. Some people feel like they have socks on, even though they are barefoot. Over time, this feeling can spread to the legs and hands.

What causes PN?

Your brain sends signals down through the spinal cord and out to the peripheral nerves. These nerves can be damaged by physical injury, infection, genetic disease, metabolic issues, and exposure to toxins. One of the most common causes of PN is diabetes mellitus.

How is PN treated?

In our office we primarily use Low Level Light Therapy (LLLT) for treatment. LLLT uses a combination of 880 nm infrared and 650 nm visible red lights. Endothelial cells and hemoglobin around the treated area release nitric oxide, which dilates the blood vessels and allows for greater circulation.

In addition to LLLT, all neuropathy patients are given a series of exercises to perform daily at home, as well as nutritional supplements specific to the treatment.