What is the difference between neuropathy and peripheral neuropathy?

what you need to know

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What is the difference between neuropathy and peripheral neuropathy?

Numbness in your feet or legs? Feel like you are walking on glass? You may have neuropathy. But what is neuropathy, anyway? Neuropathy is a term that refers to damage to the nerves. This damage could come from injury to the nerves, infections, toxin exposure, sequela from a disease, or be unknown cause. This damage causes sensations such as pain, numbness, tingling, swelling, or even muscle weakness. Symptoms typically are experienced in the hands, feet, arms, and legs. 

According to the NIH, neuropathy is more of general term and is defined as damage to one or more nerves, especially the peripheral nerves. while peripheral neuropathy refers to the many conditions that involve damage to the peripheral nervous system. The peripheral nervous system sends signals between the brain and spinal cord to other parts of the body. 

What are common conditions that lead to neuropathy?

The most common condition that people may know is associated with developing neuropathy is diabetes. It is estimated that at least 50% of people with diabetes will develop diabetic neuropathy. The International Diabetes Federation estimates over 425 million people have diabetes, making it a global epidemic. Diabetic neuropathy typically is characterized by pain and loss of sensory functioning in the feet and lower legs. The best example of this is if a diabetic patient “stubs” their toe, they might not feel it and that toe can not heal (get the blood supply it needs) and become necrotic. This may lead to the patient needing to get their toe or even foot amputated. One of the most important things a diabetic patient can do is closely monitor their glucose levels. Effective glucose control can have a huge impact on halting the progression of diabetic neuropathy in both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. 

How does uncontrolled glucose lead to neuropathy?

This is such a good question as it can clarify why controlling blood sugar and having an anti-inflammatory diet is key for health and controlling and even preventing diabetes. When your blood sugar is too high and insulin can’t effectively do its job to clear blood glucose. The excess high blood sugar can damage nerves and their ability to send signals. This high blood sugar also can weaken the walls of blood vessels (capillaries) that supply the nerves with the nutrients it needs to function optimally like oxygen. Going back to the example of stubbing your toe. A person without neuropathy can feel they stubbed their toe, it hurts! And they can take quick action to help the area heal. In comparison to a person with diabetes that has neuropathy, they may not notice they stubbed their toe or that there was a sore or infection and the area is already having a hard time sending nutrients to help the area heal. The result is the tissues and nerves start to die. This is why getting regular foot checks is key if you have diabetes! Also, another reason to find out if you have sensory loss in your lower legs and take action to get treatments that can help improve nerve functioning, and blood flow, such as acupuncture.

Acupuncture for peripheral neuropathy

How can acupuncture help neuropathies?

A recent study in the European Journal of Neurology, looked at how acupuncture could help those with peripheral neuropathy and what affect acupuncture had on nerve conduction. The study evaluated patients with diagnosed peripheral neuropathy for one year and found that those receiving acupuncture had improvement in symptoms as well as improvement in nerve conduction studies compared to the control group. 

Read more about how Starting Point Acupuncture in Bothell, can help neuropathy in our previous post here.

If you suffer from neuropathy, there is hope! Give our office a call today at (425) 686-4498 to schedule your initial consultation to learn more about how we can help your specific case.

Dr. Ellie Heintze, ND, LAc, is a naturopathic doctor and acupuncturist in Bothell, WA at her practice Starting Point Acupuncture. She specializes in chronic and complex cases and commonly treats neuropathy, fibromyalgia, migraines, autoimmune, and infertility cases. Dr. Ellie Heintze is also the author of the book, A Starting Point Guide to Going Gluten-Free  and Keep Calm and Zen Out available on Amazon.



Diabetic Neuropathy: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41572-019-0092-1

Acupuncture and nerve conduction: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1468-1331.2006.01632.x

Call or Schedule Now! (425) 686-4498

Call or Schedule Now!

(425) 686-4498

Dr. Ellie Heintze, ND, LAc

  • Master’s Degree in Acupuncture
    Bastyr University
  • Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine
    Bastyr University
  • Master’s Degree in Chemistry
    Northern Arizona University
Dr. Heintze Acupuncturist and Naturopathic Doctor

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