Polyneuropathy is the simultaneous malfunctioning of many peripheral nerves throughout the body. It is a condition that damages someone’s peripheral nerves.

These are nerves that run throughout the body. Polyneuropathy affects the nerves in skin, muscles, and organs. Certainly, any damage to the nerves will not allow it to send regular signals back to the brain, However, they do not affect the nerves in the brain or spine.

There are two major categories of polyneuropathy, they are acute and chronic.

Acute polyneuropathy

Acute forms happen when this condition happen suddenly, the symptoms are severe. This type is common when you have an auto immune reaction or infection causing nerve damage.

Chronic polyneuropathy

Chronic forms happen when symptoms last for a long time and treating it quickly was difficult. There are many different causes of chronic polyneuropathyIt’s not always easy to figure out the cause, and some cases have no clear cause.

Causes of Polyneuropathy

Acute polyneuropathy has many causes:

  • Infections involving a toxin produced by bacteria.
  • An autoimmune reaction (when the body attacks its own tissues).
  • Certain toxins

Chronic polyneuropathy causes are often unknown. Some known causes in general include the following:

  • Diabetes (the most common)
  • Excessive use of alcohol
  • Kidney failure
  • Cancer (such as multiple myeloma).
  • Infections (such as hepatitis C, HIV infection, Lyme disease, shingles)
  • And more.

Symptoms of Polyneuropathy

Symptoms of polyneuropathy may appear suddenly (acute, occurring over a few days to a couple of weeks) or develop slowly and occur over a period of time (chronic, occurring over months to years) depending on the cause.

Acute polyneuropathies: often begin suddenly in both legs and progress rapidly upward to the arms. Symptoms include weakness and a pins-and-needles sensation or loss of sensation. It can affect the muscles that control breathing resulting in respiratory failure.

Many chronic polyneuropathies affect sensation primarily. Usually, it ca affect either the feet or the hands first, . A pins-and-needles sensation, numbness, burning pain, and loss of vibration sense and position sense (knowing where the arms and legs are) are prominent symptoms. Because walking and even standing becomes unsteady consequently using the muscles becomes difficult’ Eventually, they may weaken and waste away. Then, muscles may become stiff and permanently shortened (called contractures).

People who have hereditary polyneuropathy may have hammer toes, high arches, and a curved spine (scoliosis). Abnormalities in sensation and muscle weakness may be mild. Affected people with mild symptoms may not notice the symptoms or may consider them unimportant.

How completely people recover depends on the cause of polyneuropathy.

Treatment of Polyneuropathy

  • Treatment of the cause
  • Relief of pain
  • Sometimes physical and occupational therapy
  • Physiotherapy.

Specific treatment of polyneuropathy depends on the cause, as for the following:

  • Diabetes: Careful control of blood sugar levels may slow progression of the disorder and occasionally relieves symptoms. 
  • Cancer: removal of the cancer cells may lessen the neuropathy
  • If one avoids excessive amounts of vitamin B6 polyneuropathy may resolve.

Finally, Physiotherapy reduces muscle stiffness and can prevent muscles from shortening and becoming stiff. Physical and occupational therapists can recommend useful assistive devices.

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