Let’s clear up the terms
by Chris Daino
The main thing to understand is that neuropathy is nerve damage. You can call it by the area affected or by the cause of the nerve damage, but it is still the same thing – nerve damage.
In the age we live in there are lots of ways to damage the body, and the nerves. The toxic chemicals in the environment, the food we eat with all its additives, preservatives and processing as well as many of the drugs that are so readily given to treat health problems are all causes of nerve damage. There are also many diseases that cause neuropathy as well as trauma that come from not only accidents but surgery.
For a full list of these causes, you can read:
Neuropathy is also named by the type of damage:
Types of Neuropathy Damage:
There are many names given to the type of neuropathy depending on the nerve involved:
Focal neuropathy – this means that only one (or at most a few) nerves are injured. The pain, numbness and/or weakness are confined to a single limb or a small area of the body or the head. They are usually caused by compression or trauma. Basically, one nerve gets damaged. The best known of these is carpal tunnel syndrome where the median nerve is damaged by compression of that nerve.
Mononeuropathy – Another term for only one nerve being affected.
Generalized neuropathies – these are associated with general medical problems – infections, diabetes, immune, nutritional related, drug induced, etc. Again, the nerves get damaged. In this case it can start with one nerve and spread, or it can affect many nerves depending on the cause of the neuropathy.
Polyneuropathies – another name for generalized neuropathy
Axonal neuropathy – this is a technical term for the microscopic part of the nerve that is damaged. If you think of a wire you have the inner core of the wire and the insulation around it. The core of the “wire” is called axon.
Demyelinating – again if we think of a wire, the nerve is surrounded by a fatty tissue called myelin. This is similar to the plastic insulation around an electrical wire. When the medical doctor calls your neuropathy demyelinating, it means that the myelin sheath around the nerve is breaking down. The way that medical doctors determine if it is demyelinating or axonal is to do a nerve conduction studies (NCS) which can distinguish between these two types.
Small Fiber Neuropathy – Nerve Endings Damage – this is when the very ends of the nerves are damaged.
Special “types” of Neurpathy:
Hereditary Neuropathy – When it is considered inherited. Charcot Marie Tooth is considered hereditary.
Idiopathic Neuropathy – When they can’t figure out what the cause is.
The following types of Neuropathy are actually the area that is affected. In each type of neuropathy you can have a sensory nerve damaged or a motor nerve damaged. Sensory nerves damage creates pain, numbness, tingling, etc. Motor nerves create the inability of the body to send messages to the muscles and thus you get weakness and sometimes even drop foot.
Autonomic – affects the autonomic system – glands, internal organs, etc.
Cranial – affects the head
Diabetic amyotrophy – weakness on both sides of the body, blood vessel disease may be the cause.
Femoral Neuropathy develops in the front of one thigh, with muscle weakness and wasting.
Optic – affects the eyes
Thoracic/Lumbar Radiculopathy occurs in the torso. Affects a band of the chest or abdominal wall on one or both sides.
Unilateral Foot Drop – damage to the peroneal nerve – trauma injury.
Hope this clears up any confusion you might have had with all the names being used to describe “neuropathy”.
What can you do about Neuropathy once the nerve damage is there? Go to Neuropathy for information and the treatments available.
Want to Know More About Neuropathy?
Neuropathy Information Hub
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