Peripheral neuropathy is the damage to nerve cells outside the brain. Though autonomic nervous system, that is nerves that innervate our internal organs, are also in the periphery, but mostly when we talk about peripheral neuropathy, we mean nerves that are responsible for movements and sensation.
Nerves that take the sensory signal from receptors to the brain are more sensitive to diseases and toxicity as compared to those involved in the movement. Hence alteration in a sensation is the most common symptom when illness or toxicity have caused damage to nerves. Though in trauma often both sensation and movement would suffer.
Among non-traumatic causes diabetic neuropathy, and neuropathy due to the toxic effect of the chemotherapeutic medications is most common. In fact, in chemotherapy sometimes neuropathy may be severe enough to limit the dose of anticancer drugs.
Neurons or nerve cells are very different from other bodily cells. They do not multiply in number after the birth. That is a number of nerve cells in our nerves remain constant throughout the life. But as we grow they do get elongated. Simply stated, nerve cells are not very good at growing and healing themselves.
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Thus, comes the critical question, that if a person is suffering from neuropathy, can he or she be treated? Well, the answer is, yes, can be treated, but may not always be cured. Hence prevention of disease progress remains the hallmark of any therapy targeted at neuropathy.
How Do We Treat Neuropathy?
Most important thing in treating any type of neuropathy is to treat or if possible cure the underlying cause. Thus, in diabetes, it is vital to keep the blood glucose levels in check. While in vitamin B12 deficiency, it would be essential to give the vitamin tablets or injection. In case neuropathy has been caused by some medicine, one must stop taking that drug if that is possible, generally after weighing the risks and benefits.
Further, there are significant number of drugs available that can help to cure pain or other symptoms of the nerve damage. Usually, these drugs have to be taken over an extended period of time, and even life-long in some cases when nerve cell it too damaged to repair itself.
If the cause of neuropathy is trauma, one will treat the injury according to its location and type. Take an anti-inflammatory therapy. If needed carry out a surgical correction.
Can the Nerve Fibers Grow?
Well, yes, as we said that they would not multiply of increase in numbers, but they can grow a bit. Usually, a broken nerve fiber can grow at the pace of about 1mm a day. Thus, if trauma is not very severe, these fibers may slowly regrow, and a person may ultimately recover a movement and sensation.
Natural remedies have a special place in the treatment of peripheral neuropathies. Most of the natural remedies nurture and feed the nerve cells with vital elements so that recovery could be accelerated. Though it is a slow process, but quite often the only way to cure the weak and damaged nerve.
But there is a limitation to how long the nerve fiber can grow. If trauma is severe and substantial part of neuron has been lost, it may fail to reach its destination, thus failing to repair itself.
It does not mean that there is no progress being done in science. Scientists are looking at the ways to grow nerves both in the body or outside. They are studying various growth factors. They are researching for the means to fertilize the nerve cells with growth factors, guiding it, showing it the way, so that it could regrow and reconnect in an expected way.
At present science had only limited success in accelerating the growth of damaged nerve cells. Thus, most of the treatment is focused on prevention of neuropathy, or at least slow down the progression. And providing a symptomatic treatment, so that a person can lead close to a healthy life.
Natural remedies and complementary medicine like acupuncture seem to show better results in reversal of nerve damage.