Some definitions before we get into the topic:
- Neuropathy: Weakness, numbness and pain caused due to nerve damage usually in the limbs (hands and legs).
- Central nervous system: Nerves that belong to the central nervous system are mainly present in the brain and the spinal cord. These are the main channels through which communication to and from the brain travels. Central nervous system is protected by the vertebral column (in the spine) and the skull (in the head) and they are separated by the blood-brain barrier in the head.
- Peripheral nervous system: Nerves that are spread across the body stemming from the central nervous system. They carry signals from various parts of the body to the central nervous system.
What is peripheral nerve trauma or neuropathy?
Peripheral nerve trauma refers to the injuries received by the peripheral nerves of the body. In mild injury cases, only the nerve fibres may have got damaged with little compression of the insulation tissue that lies above them. In case of severe injury to the nerves, the nerves and the tissues around it are badly damaged to an extent that sensation is lost in the area.
Symptoms of peripheral nerve trauma include:
- Gradual onset of numbness (The ability to feel the pain or any kind of sensation goes down in the area).
- Tingling sensation in feet or legs. This can spread to legs or hands from the point of origin as the nerve continues to get damaged (possibly due to compression and lack of oxygen supply).
- Lack of coordination when walking
- Muscle weakness
- Sensitivity to touch
- Paralysis etc
Peripheral neuropathy is classified into 3 different categories:
- Mononeuropathy – where only one nerve is affected.
- Multiple mononeuropathy – where only one nerve is affected but in multiple places of the body.
- Polyneuropathy – Multiple nerve damages in multiple places.
When the nerves in hands or legs are damaged, the ability to sense pain goes down. In case if there is an injury in those areas, you wouldn’t even know a thing and this is bad because, you wouldn’t take care of it properly and the injury can worsen instead of healing.
What causes peripheral neural damage?
In short, there need not be an injury to the nerve for it to get damaged. Even lack of oxygen supply can cause nerve degeneration. Compressions during an injury or any type of swelling or inflammation for any reason can lead to nerve damage. Causes why the peripheral nerves get damaged are:
- Trauma or injury – involving in an accident while on road or at play etc
- Pressure on the nerves – can be due to any reason. Continuous pressure on the nerves can severely cut off the blood flow to the nerves resulting in damage.
- Diabetes – blood with high sugar levels or low oxygen levels can damage the nerves.
- Auto-immune diseases
- Infections – either in the body, brain or the nerves directly
- Vitamin deficiencies – Deficiency of vitamins and minerals in the body can lead to decline in overall body health and also hurt the nerves.
- Medical conditions – Medicines prescribed for one medical condition can interfere with other medical conditions in the body.
Treatment for nerve damage
In regular medicine, there is no medicine to repair damaged nerves or regenerate them. Medicines are available only to manage the pain and other symptoms caused due to the damaged nerves.
Recent findings have shown that HBOT can help repair the damaged peripheral nerves and also regenerate where needed.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy involves subjecting a patient to 100% pure medical grade oxygen under 2 to 3 times the normal atmospheric pressure. As a result, the amount of oxygen dissolved in the blood goes up by more than 10 times than usual. Not just the red blood cells but the plasma, lymphatic fluids, cerebrospinal fluids are also filled with oxygen that is much needed to heal the damaged parts of the body. This oxygen can reach even the bones and tissues and help enhance the functionality of white blood cells, promote regeneration of new blood vessels and help the body heal and regenerate faster.