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Sweat Gland Test Can Detect Peripheral Neuropathy

A new study in the journal Neurophysiologie Clinique has revealed that several tests used to detect sweat gland activity can assist peripheral neuropathy patients in a very interesting way. The study aimed to discover if these tests, which were designed to diagnose a dysautonomia, could also detect peripheral neuropathy. Dysautonomia is a term that describes several conditions that cause a malfunction of the autonomic nervous system, and one of those conditions is peripheral neuropathy.

Dr. Nathan Weller runs a clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona, that focuses solely on the treatment of peripheral neuropathy.

"Peripheral neuropathy is the name for what occurs when your peripheral nerves become damaged. This damage can occur from a variety of causes and affect you in a variety of ways," says Weller.

Peripheral neuropathy is often caused by diseases such as diabetes and fibromyalgia and can even occur as a side effect of alcohol abuse and chemotherapy treatment. Persons with peripheral neuropathy may experience numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, a feeling of "pins and needles," and weakness.

The authors of the Neurophysiologie Clinique study found that using tests called Sudoscan and Neuropad - both designed to test the function of the sweat glands - could also be used to detect peripheral neuropathy. According to Weller, sweat gland activity (known as sudomotor function) is controlled by the autonomic nervous system through a series of small nerve fibers. When those fibers stop working, the function of the sweat glands decreases, or "innervates," further damaging sudomotor function.

"The thinking behind the study is that if we already have a way to test sudomotor function, why not use that to detect peripheral neuropathy," Weller says.

So the authors set out to do just that, pitting some of the most common neurophysiological tests on the market against each other. Of the four methods tested - sympathetic skin reflex recording (SSR), quantitative sudomotor axon reflex testing (QSART), Neuropad colometric testing and electrochemical skin conductance measurement (ESC) by Sudoscan - the Neuropad and Sudoscan tests both proved accurate in detecting early warning signs of nerve damage, especially in patients with familial amyloid polyneuropathy (FAP) and diabetic polyneuropathy.

"This is great news for peripheral neuropathy patients, because these tests are painless, fast and non-invasive," Weller says. "And when you're already in pain due to peripheral neuropathy, the last thing you want to do is sit through more to find out why."

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Wednesday, 12 December 2018

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