Hypothyroidism: Can it Cause Peripheral Neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathy occurs when the nerves in the body are damaged, usually due to underlying disease and the peripheral nervous system is damaged. It often causes numbness, tingling, and pain in the hands and feet.

The most common cause of peripheral neuropathy is hypothyroidism. This is because the thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate metabolism and help nerves function properly. When the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough hormones, it can lead to hypothyroidism and neuropathy.

What is Peripheral Neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathy results from damage to nerves outside the brain and spinal cord (peripheral nerves).  The National Health Service States that almost 1 in 10 people aged 55 or more are affected by peripheral neuropathy disease in the UK.

The job of the peripheral nervous system is to send information from your brain and spinal cord (central nervous system) to the rest of your body.  Peripheral nerves also send sensory information to the central nervous system in the same way. It is also called the control center, from where all signals come and go.

The peripheral nervous system maintains communication with the central station through connections. Tracks (networks of nerves) send information signals from a central station (your brain and spinal cord) to all parts of the body. 

So when in this system nerve cells, and neurons, are damaged or destroyed and cannot send signals properly, this disrupts communication between neurons and the brain, resulting in peripheral nerve damage, weakness, numbness, indigestion, and pain, usually in the hands and feet. 

The Cleveland Clinic says peripheral neuropathy can be caused by traumatic injuries, infections, metabolic problems, inherited conditions, and exposure to toxins.  It also states that one of the most common causes of neuropathy is diabetes.

Mayo Clinic says some of the reasons why people suffering from peripheral neuropathy suffer from this problem are stabbing, burning or shaking, etc.  It is also said that in many cases, treatment improves symptoms, especially Medicines that play an important role in reducing the pain of peripheral neuropathy.

Types and Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy include:

Peripheral neuropathy usually seems in the hands, feet, and arms, are damaged. The symptoms and feelings are depending on which nerves are affected. National Health Services says some symptoms of peripheral neuropathy

  • Sensory Neuropathy – This is caused by damage to the various nerves in the brain that carry messages of touch, temperature, pain, vibration or touch, control the skin, and other sensations.
  • Motor Neuropathy – This is basically muscle twitching and muscle cramps, Paralysis, Muscle weakness or paralysis, Pain putting weight on them or when they’re under a blanket, and Muscle thinning (wasting), up the front of your feet and toes.  Difficulty lifting, especially noticeable when walking.
  • Autonomic neuropathy – where nerves control involuntary bodily processes, such as heat intolerance, rapid heart rate, excessive sweating, digestion, bladder function, and blood pressure control causing dizziness or lightheadedness.
  • Mono neuropathy – This occurs when damage occurs to a single nerve outside the central nervous system.  Symptoms include altered sensation or weakness in fingers, double vision or difficulty focusing, sometimes eye pain, weakness on one side of your face (Bell’s palsy), leg or shin pain, weakness, or altered sensation.

How is Peripheral Neuropathy Associated with Hypothyroidism?

Peripheral neuropathy is a condition that occurs when the nerves in the body are damaged, usually due to an underlying disease. The most common causes of peripheral neuropathy are diabetes and hypothyroidism. Our thyroid gland controls our peripheral nervous system.  When hypothyroidism occurs, the body does not produce enough TSH hormone. 

As a result, the Thyroid gland cannot fully control and send signals to the brain and nervous system.  As a result, our nervous system is damaged. Peripheral neuropathy can be classified as either sensory or motor according to how it affects the nerves.

The symptoms of sensory nerve damage include numbness, tingling, burning pain, and loss of sensation in the feet or hands. Motor nerve damage leads to weakness in muscles and difficulty walking or moving fingers properly because there is no feeling in these areas.

In some cases, people with hypothyroidism may have both sensory and motor symptoms of peripheral neuropathy because they have both types of nerve damage.

How Hypothyroidism Causes Peripheral Neuropathy:

Mayo Clinic states, the most recent studies, and researchers have identified more severe, long-term, untreated hypothyroidism as a cause of peripheral neuropathy.  They also say hypothyroidism is a metabolic disorder that affects the nervous system due to low production of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH). Hypothyroidism can cause the body to retain fluid, causing the tissues to swell.  This can cause pressure on peripheral nerves.

  MAYO CLINIC also states, It usually occurs in the wrists and feet and is observed as a cause of excruciating pain.  The cause of hand pain is that the nerve responsible for hand function passes through a “tunnel” of soft tissue.  This soft tissue can swell and press on the nerve, causing carpal tunnel syndrome and nerve pain.

The National Institute of Health says, that subclinical hypothyroidism is a potential cause of sensory neuropathy, and hormone replacement therapy can prompt nerve regeneration, so when thyroid function is restored with thyroid hormone replacement therapy, the patient’s neuropathic pain intensity is steadily reduced.

Signs and symptoms of peripheral neuropathy may include pain, a burning sensation, or loss of sensation and tingling in the area affected by the nerve damage. It may also cause muscle weakness or loss of muscle control.

See your doctor if you have these symptoms and pain associated with hypothyroidism that you suspect, and you’re having troubling or painful symptoms in your limbs.

Also Read: What are The 4 Types Of Diabetes?

Treatment of peripheral neuropathy related to Hypothyroidism:

Mayo Clinic Recommended some ways of relieving pain related to Peripheral neuropathy.

If it is known through medical analysis that peripheral neuropathy has occurred due to hypothyroidism, then in this case treatment and drug administration is related to thyroid hormone management. That is, managing the underlying hypothyroidism and treating the symptoms of hypothyroidism, peripheral neuropathy, and its problems are attempted.  This may include:

Levothyroxine (Synthroid, Android, others), is a drug for hypothyroidism patients to prevent thyroid insufficiency and produce enough TSH hormone.  It often improves neuropathy symptoms. 

Along with the medicine, thyroid patients should do all the regular activities that the doctor advises such as exercising and maintaining a healthy weight, maintaining a healthy diet of food, getting enough sleep on time, etc. can greatly improve neuropathy problems.  In peripheral neuropathy, trying to maintain weight control at all times can help reduce stress on your body as well as strengthen the affected organs. 

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