What is peripheral neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathy is a common condition caused by damage to the peripheral nerves of the nervous system. The peripheral nerves spread out from the brain via the spinal cord. The peripheral nerves relay nerve impulses and sensory information from the body to the spinal cord, where they are then carried to the brain. The peripheral nerves also carry motor signals for muscle movement and other functions from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body including the organs.

Damage to the peripheral nerves interferes with normal functioning of the peripheral nervous system. Typical symptoms include unusual or abnormal sensations of the extremities, which commonly occur in the feet. A wide variety of other symptoms can occur as well because there are many types of peripheral nerves with specialized functions that can be affected by peripheral neuropathy.

A very common cause of peripheral neuropathy (diabetic neuropathy) is diabetes. Peripheral neuropathy can also result from certain metabolic disorders, infections, malignancy, inflammation, vitamin deficiencies, toxins, inherited conditions, and other abnormal processes. The goal of the clinical evaluation is to identify the root cause for peripheral neuropathy.


Treatment of peripheral neuropathy involves diagnosing and treating the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Some conditions can be successfully treated and cured, while others may require more intensive treatment.

Complications of untreated peripheral neuropathy can be serious and include muscle wasting, paralysis, serious infections, and gangrene. Seek prompt medical care if you have symptoms of peripheral neuropathy, such as changes in sensation, difficulty moving, or other unusual symptoms. Prompt diagnosis and treatment of peripheral neuropathy and its underlying cause reduces the risk of permanent nerve damage and serious complications.

Some complications of peripheral neuropathy can be life threatening. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have chest pain, difficulty breathing, or a change in alertness or passing out. 


SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathy generally develops slowly over a period of months as peripheral nerves are progressively damaged. A wide variety of symptoms can occur because there are many types of peripheral nerves with specialized functions that can be affected by peripheral neuropathy.

Symptoms that affect the limbs

Peripheral neuropathy commonly affects the arms and legs. Sy... Read more about peripheral neuropathysymptoms

CAUSES

What causes peripheral neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathy is caused by damage to the peripheral nervous system. The peripheral nerves carry motor signals for muscle movement and other functions from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body. The peripheral nerves also relay nerve impulses and sensory information back to the central nervous system (spinal cord and brain).

Widespread nerve damage can result from... Read more about peripheral neuropathycauses

TREATMENTS

How is peripheral neuropathy treated?

Treatment plans for peripheral neuropathy are individualized to the underlying cause, the presence of coexisting diseases and complications, the age of the patient, and other factors. Treatment generally involves a multifaceted plan that addresses the underlying cause of neuropathy, minimizes the pain and abnormal sensations, and reduces the risk of complications, such as gangrene. The ultimate... Read more about peripheral neuropathytreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 20, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Brain and Nerves