Tingling, numbness, and pain in the feet with no known cause. In recent years, the number of people who experience these symptoms has increased, which includes a condition called ” small fiber neuropathy”.
A recent study published in the journal of the American Academy of Neurology has tried to analyze the incidence, prevalence, comorbidity and disability of this condition, which can cause weakness and balance problems , as there is limited population-based data.
The influence of overweight and obesity
To carry out the research, the team analyzed the records of people diagnosed with small fiber neuropathy in Olmsted, Minnesota (United States), as well as the surrounding counties, over a period of two decades. Then, they made a comparison of the 94 patients with 282 people with similar characteristics who did not have neuropathy.
The study found that the condition occurred in 13.3 out of 100,000 people and the trend was upward. “This increase could be due in part to increased awareness. Another possibility is that increased levels of overweight and obesity in our area could be a factor in the higher rates of small fiber neuropathy,” notes the study author, the Dr. Christopher J. Klein, from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester and a member of the American Academy of Neurology, in statements collected by Infosalus .
Small fiber neuropathy is a “involvement of the peripheral nervous system whose main manifestation is chronic neuropathic pain”, they explain in a review published in Elsevier . This pathology affects small caliber myelinated and unmyelinated nerve fibers.
Why does this condition originate?
Study participants with neuropathy had a mean Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30.4 , compared with 28.5 for people without neuropathy. A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered healthy; 25.0 to 29.9 is considered overweight; and from 30.0 onwards it is considered obesity.
On the other hand, about 50% of people with neuropathy had diabetes, compared to 22% of people without neuropathy. Likewise, patients with this condition were more likely to suffer insomnia (86%) compared to the rest (54%), and to suffer a heart attack (46%).
“Based on these results, people with small fiber neuropathy should be screened for heart problems and their blood glucose level should be monitored for signs of diabetes,” says Dr. Christopher J. Klein.
In 67 of the patients the cause of neuropathy could not be established, while in 14 it was caused by diabetes, Sjögren’s syndrome and lupus. In conclusion, experts consider that this isolated neuropathy is rare, although its incidence is increasing.
“Most patients do not develop significant neurological deficits or disability, but have multiple comorbidities , including cardiovascular ischemic events and increased mortality,” they conclude.