Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Idiopathic Neuropathy: What's That All About!

Today's post from (see link below) looks at the neuropathy diagnosis that can drive people to distraction because they feel that it tells them nothing more about what's wrong with them and why it's happened. You will receive that diagnosis after tests to determine what has caused your neuropathic problems. Those tests will have produced inconclusive results and you will join roughly 4 out of 10 people for whom the cause of their neuropathy can't be established. However, that does not mean that your neuropathy is in any way 'lessened' by the word 'idiopathic' and your treatment will continue in much the same way as if your neuropathy had been found to have a clear cause. This short but useful article explains what idiopathic neuropathy actually means.

No You’re Not An Idiot if You Don’t’ Understand Idiopathic Neuropathy
Dr Marc Spitz Posted on September 2, 2013

Wow –we in the medical field use so BIG words. Maybe it’s to compensate for lack of understanding of certain aspects of peripheral neuropathy. There are areas of neuropathy in which we have a greater understanding. Diabetic neuropathy for example is quite clear as to the pathology causing peripheral neuropathy nerve disease. People with diabetes have high circulating blood glucose. Multiple studies have proven that high sugars are directly related to nerve damage. Diabetics have a high degree of propensity of developing neuropathy. It is estimated that over 50% of all diabetics will develop neuropathy in their life time.

With other causes neuropathy we are not so clear. There are over 20 causes of peripheral neuropathy-other than diabetes. Some include: adverse reaction to medication, including chemotherapy, alcoholism, injury, autoimmune disease, exposure to toxins and heavy medicals, injury, HIV/AIDS, nutritional deficiencies, and inherited diseases.

Yet-despite the fact there are so many causes of neuropathy, in many cases, we still do not the exact cause of neuropathy and its symptoms. The term for an unknown cause for neuropathy is called idiopathic neuropathy.

Idiopathic Polyneuropathy

Idiopathic sensory-motor polyneuropathy is an illness where sensory and motor nerves of the peripheral nervous system are affected and no obvious underlying etiology is found. In many respects, the symptoms are very similar to diabetic polyneuropathy.


In idiopathic sensory-motor polyneuropathy, the patients may experience unusual sensations (paresthesias), numbness and pain in their hands and feet. In addition, there may be weakness of the muscles in the feet and hands. As the disease progresses, patients may experience balance problems and have difficulty walking on uneven surfaces or in the dark. In a small minority of the patients, the autonomic nervous system may also be involved and the patients may experience persistent nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, incontinence, sweating abnormalities or sexual dysfunction.


Diagnosis of idiopathic sensory-motor polyneuropathy is based on history, clinical examination and supporting laboratory investigations. These include electromyography with nerve conduction studies, skin biopsies to evaluate cutaneous nerve innervation, and nerve and muscle biopsies for histopathological evaluation.


Treatment of idiopathic sensory-motor polyneuropathy depends on controlling neuropathic pain, which can be treated with anti-seizure medications, antidepressants, or analgesics including opiate drugs. Patients with balance problems often benefit from ‘gait’ training through physical therapy. Patients who have foot drop due to weakness in their ankles may benefit from orthotics.

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