What is Sensorimotor Polyneuropathy & How is it Treated?
What is Sensorimotor Polyneuropathy?
Sensorimotor polyneuropathy is a medical condition where there is reduction in the patient's ability to feel anything or move anything. Sensorimotor polyneuropathy occurs as a result of nerve damage. The meaning of Neuropathy is disease of nerves or damage to nerves. If Neuropathy occurs outside of the spinal cord or brain, then it is referred to as peripheral neuropathy. If only one nerve is involved, then it is known as Mononeuropathy. When many nerves in different parts of the body are involved, then it is known as Polyneuropathy. In Polyneuropathy, the Neuropathy affects nerves which are responsible for feeling (sensory neuropathy) or responsible for movement (motor neuropathy). Sensorimotor neuropathy is a condition when the neuropathy affects both, i.e. feeling as well as the movement.
What are the Causes of Sensorimotor Polyneuropathy?
Sensorimotor polyneuropathy is a systemic process that damages nerve fibers, nerve cells and myelin sheath (nerve coverings). Damage to the myelin sheath causes slowing of the nerve signals. Damage to the entire nerve cell or a nerve fiber can result in the complete stopping of the nerve function.
Causes of Nerve Damage:
- Conditions that put pressure on nerves or compress the nerves.
- Autoimmune disorders/diseases.
- Diseases and conditions which damage the connective tissue which holds tissues and cells together.
- Inflammation or swelling of the nerves.
- Decreased blood flow to the nerve.
Causes of Polyneuropathy:
There are some diseases which are primarily sensory or motor which lead to polyneuropathy. Some of the possible causes of sensorimotor polyneuropathy are:
- Paraneoplastic neuropathy (cancer).
- Alcoholic neuropathy.
- Diabetic neuropathy.
- Chronic inflammatory neuropathy.
- Guillain-Barré syndrome.
- Drug-related neuropathy.
- Vitamin deficiency (vitamins B12, B1, and E).
- Hereditary neuropathy.
What are the Symptoms of Sensorimotor Polyneuropathy?
- Symptoms of Sensorimotor Polyneuropathy are commonly felt on both sides of the body. Usually they start at the ends of the toes first.
- There is decreased feeling or sensation in any part of the body.
- Difficulty in using hands or arms can be a symptom of Sensorimotor Polyneuropathy.
- Difficulty in swallowing.
- Difficulty in using feet or legs.
- Difficulty in walking.
- Patient suffering from Sensorimotor Polyneuropathy experiences symptoms of neuralgia, which is feeling of pain, tingling, burning or abnormal feeling in any part of the body.
- Patient experiences weakness of the arms, face or legs or any part of the body.
- The development of the symptoms of Sensorimotor Polyneuropathy may be quick, as seen in Guillain-Barré syndrome; or symptoms can develop over weeks to years.
How is Sensorimotor Polyneuropathy Diagnosed?
Medical history, physical exam and neurological exam of the patient suffering from Sensorimotor Polyneuropathy are done which reveals:
- Decreased feeling which may involve pain, touch, position, sensation or vibration.
- Muscle atrophy.
- Diminished reflexes (most commonly in ankle).
- Fasciculations (muscle twitches).
- Muscle weakness.
Tests Done for Diagnosis of Sensorimotor Polyneuropathy Include:
- Blood tests.
- Electromyogram (EMG).
- Nerve conduction studies.
- X-rays and other imaging tests.
How is Sensorimotor Polyneuropathy Treated?
The aim of treatment of Sensorimotor Polyneuropathy includes: Finding the cause of Sensorimotor Polyneuropathy, managing the symptoms and encouraging the patient's independence and self-care.
Depending on the cause of Sensorimotor Polyneuropathy treatment may consist of:
- Changing any medicines that are causing the problem.
- Stopping alcohol consumption.
- Controlling blood sugar level.
- Taking nutritional supplements.
- Vocational rehabilitation.
- Exercises to retrain and to maximize the function of the damaged nerves.
- Orthopedic treatment.
- Physical therapy.
- Occupational therapy.
- Use of assistive devices such as braces, wheelchairs and splints.
Medicines for Treating Sensorimotor Polyneuropathy:
- Prescription analgesics and over-the-counter pain killers help in reducing the stabbing pain felt in Sensorimotor Polyneuropathy.
- Antidepressant or anticonvulsants medicines can be prescribed to manage the symptoms of Sensorimotor Polyneuropathy.
- Creams, lotions or medicated patches can be used in Sensorimotor Polyneuropathy.
- It is important to avoid pain medicines and use them only when necessary.
- It is also important to keep your body in the right position when sleeping. Keeping bed linens off a tender body part also helps in controlling pain.
Tips to Control Symptoms of Sensorimotor Polyneuropathy
Safety is of great importance for patients suffering from Sensorimotor Polyneuropathy. Patient has decreased sensation and lack of muscle control which increases the risk of falls and other injuries. Given below are some safety tips for patients having movement difficulties:
- Always leave the lights on during the night so the patient can see his/her way about.
- Always test the temperature of the water before bathing.
- Always remove obstacles which can make you trip and fall such as loose rugs, overturned chairs etc.
- Always use railings when climbing stairs and when using a shower.
- Always wear protective shoes with low heels and those which have non-slippery soles.
- Always check your feet daily for injuries, open skin areas, bruises which may have gone unnoticed and have become infected.
- Always check the inside of your shoes for rough spots or grit, which may injure your feet.
- Consult a podiatrist (foot doctor) to assess and to cut down on your risk of foot injury.
- Always avoid crossing your knees, leaning on your elbows and other such positions which put prolonged pressure on certain body parts.
What are the Complications of Sensorimotor Polyneuropathy?
Complications of Sensorimotor Polyneuropathy consist of injury to feet, deformity, pain, numbness, weakness and trouble walking.
What is the Prognosis of Sensorimotor Polyneuropathy?
Full recovery from Sensorimotor Polyneuropathy is only possible if the cause is found and treated at the right time and if the entire nerve cell is not affected. The degree of disability from Sensorimotor Polyneuropathy varies. There are some people who suffer from disability; whereas, some suffer from partial or complete loss of function, movement or feeling. Patient may have nerve pain which can be uncomfortable and persist for a long time. In some patients, sensorimotor polyneuropathy can produce severe and life-threatening symptoms.