How We Diagnose and Treat Neuropathy

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How We Diagnose and Treat Neuropathy

Neuropathy can start out really small — perhaps just a strange numb patch on your foot or periodic zaps of discomfort in your lower limbs that don’t even qualify as pain. These are some of the more common signs of peripheral neuropathy, which affects millions of Americans — more than 1 in 10 people between the ages of 40 and 69, to be more precise.

While those tingles and zaps may not seem all that serious, if left unchecked neuropathy can lead to limb-threatening complications, which is why staying one step ahead of neuropathy is so important.

One of the best ways to do that is to consult with the highly experienced neuropathy team here at Foot Ankle Leg Wound Care Orange County. Headed up by double-board certified surgeon Dr. Thomas Rambacher, our expert staff understands the importance of early detection and intervention when it comes to peripheral nerve damage.

The many roads to peripheral neuropathy

When it comes to peripheral nerve damage (peripheral describes the nervous system outside of your central nervous system), there are a number of different conditions or events that can cause the issue, including:

  • Alcohol use disorders
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Diabetes
  • Infections
  • Injury
  • Chemotherapy
  • B12 deficiencies
  • Kidney failure
  • Certain medications

Far and away, diabetes is the leading driver of peripheral neuropathy — it develops in up to half of people with this common chronic disease. And it’s also the most common reason why people seek our help — the nerve damage caused by diabetes places you at great risk for wounds that can wreak havoc on your lower limbs.

Identifying nerve damage in your lower limbs

There are several ways in which we can not only identify whether you have neuropathy, but to what extent.

As you might imagine, our first step is to review your symptoms, which can reveal a good deal about potential nerve damage. Numbness, pain, tingling, and other issues commonly develop when you have neuropathy in your lower limbs.

After we get a better sense of what you're experiencing, we conduct tests, such as nerve conduction studies and intraepidermal nerve fiber density testing, or IENF testing. This second test — IENF — is an important biomarker that can tell us about the degree of nerve damage.

To conduct your IENF test, we take a small piece of skin from your lower leg and, as the name of the test implies, evaluate the density of small nerve fibers in the sample. This gives us a clear picture of the extent of the peripheral nerve damage and also provides us with some valuable baseline information that will serve us well as we move forward to address your nerve damage.

Treating neuropathy

When we refer to treating neuropathy, we’re largely referring to halting the progression of the condition. In most cases, once the nerves are damaged, the damage is irreversible.

Slowing or halting the neuropathy first entails addressing the underlying condition. So, if diabetes is causing the problem, it’s paramount to manage your disease. Or, if you have a vitamin B12 deficiency, we focus on correcting this deficit.

Once we’ve done what we can to address the root cause, we work on monitoring your existing neuropathy closely. As we mentioned, our primary concern is ulcers or wounds that develop in your lower limbs, which don’t heal well thanks to the nerve and blood vessel damage in your lower limbs.

As you can imagine, the sooner we’re able to identify the neuropathy, the better we can prevent serious complications, so we urge you to contact us if you suspect you might be at risk for neuropathy or you’ve already developed some nerve damage.

To get started, please call our office in Mission Viejo, California, at 949-832-6018 or request an appointment online today.