Peripheral Neuropathy

What is Peripheral Neuropathy?

Peripheral nerves are the nerves located outside the brain and spinal cord. Peripheral neuropathy occurs when these nerves are damaged. There are more than 100 types of peripheral neuropathy, which can be broken down into four main categories:

Motor Neuropathy: damage to the nerves that control muscles and movement

Sensory Neuropathy: damage to the sensory nerves that transmit sensations, including pain and touch

Automatic Nerve Neuropathy: damage to the nerves that control functions such as breathing and heartbeat

Combination Neuropathies: two or more of the above neuropathies, with the most common being motor-sensory

When only one nerve is affected, it is called mononeuropathy. Two or more nerves affected in different areas are called multiple mononeuropathy. If it affects many nerves, it’s called polyneuropathy—this is the most common type of peripheral neuropathy.

What are the Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy?

Symptoms will vary based on the type of neuropathy and the part of the body affected. Symptoms can range from numbness or tingling in an isolated part of the body, to burning pain or even paralysis.

In motor neuropathy, symptoms can include:

  • Muscle weakness and paralysis
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Uncontrolled muscle movements

In sensory neuropathy, symptoms can include:

  • Pain
  • Loss of balance and/or coordination
  • Tingling
  • Numbness

In automatic neuropathy, symptoms can include:

  • Sweating too much or not enough
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Bowel or bladder problems

What Causes Peripheral Neuropathy?

  • Diabetes and metabolic syndrome
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Infections
  • Injuries
  • Trauma
  • Surgery
  • Tumors
  • Bone marrow disorders
  • Inherited conditions
  • Vitamin and nutrition deficiencies
  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Medications
  • Toxins

How is Peripheral Neuropathy Diagnosed?

Initially, a full medical history and neurological exam will usually be performed, along with a variety of tests, including:

  • Blood tests
  • Imaging tests such as CT or MRI scans
  • Nerve function tests such as electromyography (EMG)
  • Nerve biopsy
  • Skin biopsy

What is the Treatment for Peripheral Neuropathy?

Typically, peripheral neuropathy can’t be cured, but there are a variety of treatments aimed at preventing it from getting worse, such as:

  • Mobility aids such as braces, walkers, canes, orthotics
  • Medications – including pain relievers, anti-seizure medications, antidepressants, and topical treatments
  • Spinal cord stimulation
  • Physical therapy
  • Surgery – which can reconnect cut nerves and relieve pain due to trapped nerves

Peripheral neuropathy can interfere with an individual’s ability to work or carry out daily tasks. If you have been diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy and are worried that it may be impeding your ability to continue to safely practice on patients, you should speak with an experienced disability insurance attorney.

These posts are for informative purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for consultation with and diagnosis by a medical professional. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms described above and have yet to consult with a doctor, do not use this resource to self-diagnose. Please contact your doctor immediately and schedule an appointment to be evaluated for your symptoms.


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