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Neuropathy and disability, part 1: defining the condition

Some of the leading causes of disability are well known. Chronic back pain, for example, is a condition that many people would immediately identify as potentially disabling.

Research is also making better known just how common it is for depression to become so severe that it may qualify as a disabling condition.

And of course there are many other causes of impairments that may make someone eligible for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) payments.

A widely suffered condition that is not so well known, however, is neuropathy. And so, in this two-part post, we will discuss neuropathy.

First, let's cover some basics. What is neuropathy, exactly?

In very simple terms, neuropathy is a shorthand way of saying "nerve damage." That, at least, is the working definition offered by one California chiropractor who specializes in neurological issues.

When someone has neuropathy, the injured nerves make it difficult for the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) to communicate with other parts of the body.

The parts of the body that are affected could be muscles. For example, if someone has neuropathy that affects one or both legs, it can be very difficult for someone to walk because his or her muscles don't respond appropriately.

Indeed, the feet are one of the places where neuropathy often starts. It may manifest itself, at first, as numbness or in a tingling sensation. But it may also be accompanied by pain and weakness.

Neuropathy can also affect organs and tissues. It is a complex disease that takes many forms, with so many known types that the number exceeds 100.

In part two of this post, we will discuss how neuropathy relates to diabetes.

Source: U-T San Diego, "Neuropathy: Causes abound but treatments exist that could lessen pain," Erinn Hutkin, Dec. 10, 2013

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