Peripheral Neuropathy is a condition that stems from damage to the Nervous System. Neuropathy affects more than 20 million Americans every year, yet many people are reluctant to seek treatment. This condition can be difficult to pinpoint because it can be anywhere in the body, but there are several common symptoms that are characteristic of neuropathy. The most common symptoms are extreme pain in the hands and feet, along with feeling weakness and the sensation of pins and needles. Neuropathy does become worse over time if left untreated, and there are several stages of this condition, each one becoming worse if left untreated. Here, we will break down the stages to better help you understand your symptoms, and help determine if you need to seek treatment.
Stage 1: Numbness and Pain
In the beginning stages of neuropathy, you will experience some pain and numbness. These symptoms won’t be persistent, but you will notice them coming and going. These first symptoms of pain and numbness may be subtle, but you will recognize that they are there. For example, you may notice some slight tingling or numbness in your hands and feet, but it eventually goes away. Another early sign of neuropathy may be that you notice your balance and reflexes are a little out of tune compared to what they normally are. Oftentimes, the first symptoms recur every few weeks, and grow to become more consistent. It is common for people to ignore the first signs of neuropathy because they are so subtle.
Stage 2: Regular and Persistent Symptoms
The second stage of peripheral neuropathy occurs when your pain and numbness become more regular and consistent. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly when a patient’s neuropathy progresses into the second stage, but it will become obvious when the pain and numbness is felt more often than in the past. In the second stage, it becomes more difficult to ignore the pains, numbness, and other symptoms that are present. This is the stage in which many people recognize that something may be wrong, and seek help from a doctor. In most cases, if neuropathy is caught and treated by the second stage, the chances of curing the nerve damage is high, but if left untreated past the second stage, nerve damage is often permanent.
Stage 3: Debilitating Pain
In the third stage of neuropathy, your pain is occurring daily, or almost every day. In this stage, the pain begins to affect your daily activities, and prevents you from going about your day as you would normally. At this point, you may realize that over the counter pain medications are not working anymore, and you can’t find a way to alleviate your pain. This is because in the third stage of neuropathy, you are likely experiencing other pains and symptoms of nerve damage. In the third stage, there is still a chance that some of the nerve damage can be reversed, but in many cases may be permanent.
Stage 4: Constant Numbness
In the fourth stage of neuropathy, your legs and feet will become very numb. This is due to the lack of healthy nerves that are able to carry signals to your brain. You may notice an increase in numbness and a decrease in your pain, but this is not a good thing. When this happens, it is a sign that the nerves are dying and a good majority of the nerve fibers have disintegrated. At this point, the larger nerve fibers are beginning to become irreversibly damaged. In this stage, it is likely that your balance is affected, and it may become difficult to walk and keep your balance. In the fourth stage of neuropathy, your nerve damage is permanent, and much of the numbness will be irreversible. At this stage, it is urgent to seek treatment in order to prevent worsening numbness that cannot be reversed. In the fourth stage, there is still a chance for improvement, but it may be slight.
Stage 5: Complete Loss of Feeling
This is the final stage of neuropathy, and it is where you’ve lost any and all feeling in your lower legs and feet. You do not feel any pain, just intense numbness. This is because there are no nerves that are able to send signals to your brain. At this stage, walking has become very difficult, and your balance is severely affected. You may become so unsteady that you have to use a wheelchair. It is absolutely necessary that you seek immediate medical attention if you reach this stage of neuropathy, and are experiencing a complete loss of feeling in your lower extremities. In stage five, your nerves are permanently damaged, but it may be possible to regenerate some of your nerve fibers.
When it comes to Peripheral Neuropathy, the most commonly affected areas are the hands and feet, but symptoms may be felt in many other areas, such as the back, legs, and face. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms or feelings that are listed above, contact your doctor immediately. To learn more about Select Health and the treatment options we offer for your Neuropathy, click here! Visit our Facebook page for all of the latest updates and information about us and our services.