Neuropathy is a condition caused by damage to the nerves outside of your brain and spinal cord, known as peripheral nerves. These peripheral nerves play a crucial role in sending signals between your brain or spinal cord and the rest of the body. When damaged, they can lead to a range of symptoms, from pain and tingling to muscle weakness and loss of balance or coordination. Little do people know, that there are neuropathy stages, and each stage has its own set of symptoms and challenges. If you like to learn more about neuropathy stages, continue to read below.
5 Neuropathy Stages: Signs & Treatments
The 5 Neuropathy Stages Are:
Stage 1: Early Symptoms
The first neuropathy stage includes mild symptoms feeling "pins and needles" numbness, and mild pain. These symptoms typically start in the toes and feet and can move up the leg.
These symptoms at times can be vague, and because of this, some people might blow these symptoms off, delaying a diagnosis and treatment or management.
Stage 2: Worsening Symptoms
As neuropathy gets worse, so will the symptoms. They may even start to affect other parts of the body like the hands. The tingling and numbness usually will get worse. Some may start experiencing a burning sensation or hypersensitivity. This is the second neuropathy stage.
Stage 3: Muscle Weakness, Balance, and Coordination Issues
In the third neuropathy stage, muscle weakness is the key feature. The damaged peripheral nerves struggle to send signals to muscles. This leads to issues also with balance and coordination.
People at this stage of neuropathy often times start to have issues walking and standing. They also can start to experience falls as well, which can be dangerous and lead to severe fractures or breaks in bone, which oftentimes are the cause of permanent disability.
Stage 4: Severe Complications
Without proper management, neuropathy can cause even more severe complications. In the fourth neuropathy stage, chronic pain becomes a daily, constant issue, which can be life-altering and also be a cause of disability.
Some people also can experience muscle atrophy, a condition characterized by the wasting away of muscle tissue due to decreased nerve stimulation. In some cases, complications such as foot deformities like bunions, hammertoes, loss of the arch, or developing a high-arched foot can happen due to the muscle wasting seen in neuropathy.
In severe cases, foot ulcers can develop which can take very long to heal, become infected, and even lead to hospitalization and or amputation.
Stage 5: Numbness
The final or fifth neuropathy stage, numbness or no feeling to your feet is seen here. People a lot of times no longer feel pain, temperature changes, or even touch. While this might seem like a relief from the pain in the early stages of neuropathy, this is very dangerous for several reasons.
Pain normally is a signal to our body that something is wrong, and allows us to move from the source of the pain to prevent more severe injury. Not being able to sense pain is a key risk factor for foot ulcers, infections, and amputations.
Importance of Early Detection and Intervention
If you know and understand the neuropathy stages, you will be more likely to see a doctor earlier, because you know what to look out for. You can start treatment or management of your symptoms, and not experience the more severe effects of neuropathy.
Neuropathy is often caused by other health issues like diabetes, Peripheral Arterial Disease or PAD autoimmune disorders, certain infections, or medications. Tackling the root cause of your neuropathy early on can help to improve your quality of life.
For example, in diabetics, managing blood sugar levels, and making sure that they are in a healthy range daily, can help slow down or stop the nerve damage.
Other Treatment & Lifestyle Changes That Can Help With Neuropathy
In addition to medications, certain lifestyle changes help to manage neuropathy. These include:
1. Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
A healthy lifestyle can positively impact neuropathy symptoms. This includes maintaining a healthy diet, doing some kind of purposeful movement, and managing stress. These factors contribute to overall well-being and may help alleviate some of the discomfort associated with neuropathy.
2. Manage Pain Effectively
Pain management is key to neuropathy treatment. Medications, physical therapy, and alternative therapies such as B12 injections, acupuncture, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation or TENS, or spinal cord stimulation, can be helpful in decreasing pain and improving your quality of life.
3. Protect Your Feet
Foot care is especially important in neuropathy because the change in sensation can increase the risk of foot ulcers. Be sure that you are looking at your feet every day, wear comfortable and protective footwear, and avoid walking barefoot, indoors or outdoors. If you are diabetic, there are diabetic foot wear options available to lower your risk of developing a foot ulcer,
Seeking Professional Help
If you think you may be dealing with neuropathy, it's important to see a physician in your area. A doctor can do a thorough evaluation, and, if necessary, tests such as nerve conduction studies, nerve biopsy, or electromyography can be ordered. Early diagnosis empowers people to take proactive steps in managing their condition and improving their quality of life.
Neuropathy is a complex condition that progresses through stages, each having its own challenges. Early detection and intervention are critical in managing neuropathy effectively and preventing further complications.
Schedule Your Appointment At Direct Podiatry Arizona
Looking for a foot doctor who does B12 injections for peripheral and or diabetic neuropathy in Phoenix? My name is Dr. Tarr, and I am the owner of Direct Podiatry Arizona in Tempe. To view my available appointment times, click here.