LCHM Summer 2018 - 12

FEATURE

Peripheral
Neuropathy
BY SLEIGH-ANNE PIECHTA, D.O.
Medical Director of the Inpatient Rehabilitation Center
Lehigh Valley Health Network - Cedar Crest

A

n estimated 20 million Americans are impacted by peripheral
neuropathies, largely due to their myriad of causes. Peripheral
neuropathies can be inherited or acquired later in life secondary
to another disease process or as a side effect of a treatment.
Injury or destruction of your nerve cells are the hallmarks of peripheral
neuropathies. Nerve cells are responsible for transmitting sensation and
movement inputs and outputs throughout the body.

Peripheral neuropathies can cause weakness, sensory changes or both.
They can be painful or painless. At times, the pain can interfere with
everyday life. The changes in sensation can affect people's abilities to detect
injuries. This is particularly important in people with diabetes who develop
a neuropathy. If their sensation is decreased and they sustain an injury and
are unaware because of lack of sensation, further injury may occur. Some
people may become aware that something is wrong because of increased
difficulty with walking and increased falls.

12 Lehigh County Health & Medicine | SUMMER 2018

Diabetes is one of the most common causes of peripheral neuropathies.
Some medications can cause neuropathy including medications used to
treat cancers. Lyme disease, immune disorders including AIDS, and acute
and chronic idiopathic demyelinating polyneuropathy can also cause
peripheral neuropathies.
Identifying the cause of your peripheral neuropathy will certainly help
to direct you in how to care for yourself. If you are unaware of the cause,
consulting a Neurologist or Physiatrist (a specialist in Physical Medicine
and Rehabilitation) would serve as the best way to get help. The doctor
may order bloodwork or perform a test called an electromyography or
EMG. An EMG tests the nerves' ability to work and conduct messages
to other parts of the body, like muscles.
No matter what the cause of peripheral neuropathy, hope is not lost.
Lifestyle changes can easily be adopted to decrease complications.



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of LCHM Summer 2018

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