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This is a word used quite frequently by people who suffer from Peripheral Neuropathy. It is a term that refers to disorders of peripheral nerves; the vast communications network that transmits information back and forth from the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system) to every other part of the body. More specifically:
motor nerves (responsible for voluntary movement)
sensory nerves (responsible for sensing temperature, pain, touch, and limb positioning)
autonomic nerves (responsible for involuntary functions such as breathing, blood pressure, sexual function, and digestion)
So what’s all this got to do with you? If you’ve ever dipped your hands in paint thinner, or that parts cleaning dip tank, or come in contact with any number of solvent based products that we use on a daily basis, it’s a good bet that you’ve done some damage to the peripheral nerves in your body. Our body’s are pretty strong and durable, in the short term, but over time these chemicals, that most of us work around, will degrade a primary compound (called Myelin), which surrounds a major part of these nerve cells and facilitates signal transmission. Without it, the nerves cannot communicate properly with the rest of the body. Without getting to technical here, with a long drawn out, boring explanation, it can cause simple numbness in a body part or unremitting 24 hour a day pain. Thus the term “HELLISH”
Peripheral Neuropathy is a pretty common disorder and can be brought on by any number of things. There are approximately 15 – 20 million people in the United States alone that have it, and yes it is also hereditary.
There’s not much that can be done without surgery and other more specific treatment if it is hereditary, but if it’s caused buy repeated exposure to toxins, and it is DIAGNOSED and TREATED EARLY, it can often be controlled if not cured. Peripheral nerves have the ability to regenerate, as long as the nerve cell itself has not been killed. In terms of making informed decisions, I think its important to restate this… The earlier the diagnosis is made and treatment is started, the greater the chance that nerve damage can be slowed or reversed and the better the prognosis.
So what are the warning signs? Tingling, burning, itchiness, crawling sensation, dizziness, clumsiness, or a "pins and needles" sensation, and also numbness, weakness, abnormal gait, and cramps. Some of these will be mild and intermittent, depending on the severity of the damage; others may last for much longer periods and may become permanent!
I hope you have found this little bit of information beneficial. The scope of this disorder is vast and there is too much information to be covered and really understood in such a short article. If you experience any of these symptoms, especially if they last more than a few ours, I would strongly recommend that you contact your doctor and schedule a check up. If you had the opportunity to spend time with patients who suffer the extremes of this disorder as I have, you would understand the concern.
As always, keep yourself informed, make smart choices and above all, be as safe as you can. Oh, and keep the paint flowing as long as you can…Robin
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