Peripheral Neuropathy

  • Basics

    Peripheral neuropathy occurs when the nerves connecting your spinal cord and brain to other parts of your body (peripheral nerves) become damaged Figure 01. Damage to the peripheral nerves causes symptoms such as tingling and numbness, lack of sensation, pain, and muscle weakness that begins in the hands or feet and may spread through the limbs.There are several types of peripheral neuropathy. Mononeuropathy is damage to a single nerve; multiple mononeuropathy is damage to two or more nerves; polyneuropathy is damage to many nerves throughout the body. The symptoms of these three types of neuropathy are similar. Your physician will determine which type is responsible for your symptoms.

    Click to enlarge: Peripheral nerves

    Figure 01. Peripheral nerves

  • Causes

    The nerve damage of peripheral neuropathy most commonly appears as a complication of another disorder such as diabetes or AIDS, or as a reaction to drugs or chemicals. Nerve damage can result from viral and bacterial infections, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, cancer, vitamin deficiencies, kidney disease, liver disease, or inherited conditions. Other causes of peripheral neuropathy include trauma, penetrating injuries, bruises, fractures, and dislocated bones. Nerve damage can also result from extended exposure to cold or heat, radiation therapy for cancer, excessive vomiting (which may occur during early pregnancy), and various other causes. Sometimes the cause of peripheral neuropathy remains a mystery.

    When peripheral nerves are damaged, communication between your central nervous system and the rest of your body is disrupted. The type of damage to the nerves influences the types of symptoms that will occur. For example, if the sensory nerve fibers are damaged, you will likely experience changes in sensation such as numbness or pain. However, if the motor fibers are damaged, your muscles will be affected, causing changes in your ability to move.

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