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Neuropathy, indicated by the discomfort of “pins and needles” in hands or feet, is more prevalent than previously thought, according to a recent study. Researchers found that 75% of individuals examined tested positive for neuropathy.

Neuropathy causes nerve damage, leading to numbness and pain

Patients with neuropathy experience nerve damage resulting in pain and numbness in extremities, potentially leading to falls, infections, and severe cases of amputations, according to University of Michigan researchers.

Recent research, featured in Neurology, reveals widespread undiagnosed neuropathy, a nerve condition. However, symptoms may not include the typical prickly sensation in hands or feet, complicating diagnosis.

According to Melissa A. Elafros from the University of Michigan and a member of the American Academy of Neurology, over a third of individuals suffering from neuropathy encounter sensations of sharp, prickling, or shock-like pain. These symptoms contribute to heightened rates of depression and a diminished quality of life. Additionally, individuals with neuropathy face an elevated risk of premature mortality, even after considering concurrent health conditions. Hence, it is imperative to identify and address neuropathy in individuals or those vulnerable to its onset.

In the study conducted at a Michigan outpatient internal medicine clinic, 169 individuals were examined. The average age of participants was 58, with two-thirds being Black. Half of the participants had diabetes, which can lead to neuropathy. Additionally, two-thirds of the participants had metabolic syndrome, characterized by excess belly fat and two or more of the following conditions: high blood pressure, elevated triglycerides, high blood sugar, and low HDL cholesterol.

Metabolic syndrome factors linked to neuropathy

Elafros highlights the link between metabolic syndrome risk factors and neuropathy, indicating a high prevalence of nerve damage among individuals tested for distal symmetric polyneuropathy. A significant portion of those affected were previously undiagnosed. Moreover, a majority reported experiencing neuropathic pain.

The study revealed that 74% of neuropathy patients also had metabolic syndrome, whereas only 54% without metabolic syndrome had neuropathy. Researchers concluded that individuals with metabolic syndrome are four times more prone to developing neuropathy after adjusting for other factors.