Peripheral neuropathy – Symptoms and causes

Overview Peripheral neuropathy, an after effect of harm to the nerves outside of the mind and spinal rope (fringe nerves), regularly causes shortcoming, sadness, and torment, as a rule in your grasp and feet. It can likewise influence different parts of your body. Your peripheral nervous system sends information from your brain and spinal cord […]


Peripheral neuropathy, an after effect of harm to the nerves outside of the mind and spinal rope (fringe nerves), regularly causes shortcoming, sadness, and torment, as a rule in your grasp and feet. It can likewise influence different parts of your body.

Your peripheral nervous system sends information from your brain and spinal cord (central nervous system) to the rest of your body. The peripheral nerves also send sensory information to the central nervous system.

Neuropathy peripheral can result from traumatic injuries, infections, metabolic problems, inherited causes, and exposure to toxins. One of the most common causes is diabetes.

Neuropathy in diabetes

People with painful neuropathy generally describe the pain as stabbing, burning or tingling. In many cases, symptoms improve, especially if caused by a treatable condition. Medications can reduce the pain of peripheral neuropathy.

The most common cause of peripheral neuropathy is diabetes. Around 60 to 70 percent of people with diabetes have some degree of neuropathy.

High blood sugar levels cause damage to the walls of the tiny blood vessels that supply oxygen and nutrients to the nerves in the ends of the hands and feet, and the essential organs in the body, such as the eyes, kidneys, and heart.

As a result, not only does the skin becomes damaged, but the loss of sensation further increases the risk of damage.

In the U.S., diabetic neuropathy is the main cause of foot problems and ulcers in people with diabetes. Around half of all people with diabetes are believed to have diabetic neuropathy.

Neuropathy in feet

Peripheral neuropathy develops when nerves in the body’s extremities, such as the hands, feet and arms, are damaged. The symptoms depend on which nerves are affected.

Over 100 types of neuropathy have been identified, each with its own causes and symptoms.

Neuropathy can affect the:

  • Sensory nerves: These nerves control sensation, and damage can cause tingling, pain, numbness, or weakness in the feet and hands.
  • Motor nerves: These nerves allow power and movement, and damage can cause weakness in the feet and hands.
  • Autonomic nerves: These nerves control body systems such as the digestive or cardiovascular system. Damage can affect the heart rate, blood pressure, and other functions.

Mononeuropathy involves a single nerve. In polyneuropathy, several nerves are affected.

Examples of neuropathy include:

  • postherpetic neuralgia, which can follow shingles. Sensory neuropathy can last for many months after the rash disappears.
  • ulnar nerve palsy, following an injury to the elbow
  • carpel tunnel syndrome, a compression of the nerves in the wrist
  • peroneal nerve palsy, caused by compression of a nerve in the leg that runs by the neck of the fibular, or the calf bone, between the knee and ankle
  • Bell’s palsy, a single-nerve neuropathy that affects the face

Symptoms for neuropathy in diabetes

Signs of neuropathy vary depending on the type and location of the nerves involved. They can appear suddenly, which is called acute neuropathy, or develop slowly over time, called chronic neuropathy.

Common signs and symptoms of neuropathy include:

  • Tingling (“pins and needles”) or numbness, especially in the hands and feet. Sensations can spread to the arms and legs.
  • Sharp, burning, throbbing, stabbing or electric-like pain.
  • Changes in sensation. Severe pain, especially at night. Inability to feel pain, pressure, temperature or touch. Extreme sensitivity to touch.
  • Falling, loss of coordination.
  • Not being able to feel things in your feet and hands – feeling like you’re wearing socks or gloves when you’re not.
  • Muscle weakness, difficulty walking or moving your arms or legs.
  • Muscle twitching, cramps and/or spasms.
  • Inability to move a part of the body (paralysis). Loss of muscle control, loss of muscle tone or dropping things out of your hand.
  • Low blood pressure or abnormal heart rate, which causes dizziness when standing up, fainting or lightheadedness.
  • Sweating too much or not enough in relation to the temperature or degree or exertion.
  • Problems with bladder (urination), digestion (including bloating, nausea/vomiting) and bowels (including diarrhea, constipation).
  • Sexual function problems.
  • Weight loss (unintentional)

Painful neuropathy

Painful neuropathy is often described as a shooting or burning pain. It can go away on its own but is often chronic. Sometimes it is unrelenting and severe, and sometimes it comes and goes. It often is the result of nerve damage or a malfunctioning nervous system. The impact of nerve damage is a change in nerve function both at the site of the injury and areas around it.One example of neuropathic pain is called phantom limb syndrome. This rare condition occurs when an arm or a leg has been removed because of illness or injury, but the brain still gets pain messages from the nerves that originally carried impulses from the missing limb. These nerves now misfire and cause pain.

Causes of Neuropathic Pain

Neuropathic pain often seems to have no obvious cause. But some common causes of neuropathic pain include:

  • Alcoholism
  • Amputation
  • Chemotherapy
  • Diabetes
  • Facial nerve problems
  • HIV infection or AIDS
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Nerve or spinal cord compression from herniated discs or from arthritis in the spine
  • Shingles
  • Spine surgery
  • Syphilis
  • Thyroid problems

If another condition, such as diabetes, is involved, better management of that disorder may alleviate the pain. Effective management of the condition can also help prevent further nerve damage.

In cases that are difficult to treat, a pain specialist may use an invasive or implantable device to effectively manage the pain. Electrical stimulation of the nerves involved in neuropathic pain may significantly control the pain symptoms

Symptoms of Neuropathic Pain

Neuropathic pain symptoms may include:

  • Shooting and burning pain
  • Tingling and numbness

Diagnosing Neuropathic Pain

To diagnose neuropathic pain, a doctor will conduct an interview and physical exam. He or she may ask questions about how you would describe your pain, when the pain occurs, or whether anything specific triggers the pain. The doctor will also ask about you

When to see a doctor

Seek medical care right away if you notice unusual tingling, weakness, or pain in your hands or neuropathy in feet. Early diagnosis and treatment offer the best chance for controlling your symptoms and preventing further damage to your peripheral nerves.

Neuropathic Pain Treatment

Anticonvulsant and antidepressant drugs are often the first line of treatment. Some neuropathic pain studies suggest the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as Aleve or Motrin, may ease pain. Some people may require a stronger painkiller. Be sure to discuss the pros and cons of the medicine you take with your doctor.


Not a single disease, peripheral neuropathy is nerve damage resulted by a number of conditions. Health conditions that can result in peripheral neuropathy include:

  • Autoimmune diseases. These include Sjogren’s syndrome, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Guillain-Barre syndrome, chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, and vasculitis.
  • Diabetes. More than half the people with diabetes develop some sort of neuropathy.
  • Infections. These include certain viral or bacterial infections, including Lyme disease, shingles, Epstein-Barr virus, hepatitis B and C, leprosy, diphtheria, and HIV.
  • Inherited disorders. Disorders such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease are hereditary types of neuropathy.
  • Tumors. Growths, cancerous (malignant) and noncancerous (benign), can happen on the nerves or press nerves. Also, polyneuropathy can arise as a cause of some cancers related to the body’s immune response. These are a form of a degenerative disorder called paraneoplastic syndrome.
  • Bone marrow disorders. These include a strange protein in the blood (monoclonal gammopathies), a form of bone cancer (myeloma), lymphoma, and the rare disease amyloidosis.
  • Other diseases. These include kidney disease, liver disease, connective tissue disorders, and an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism).

Other causes of neuropathies include:

  • Alcoholism. Bad eatery choices made by people with alcoholism can lead to vitamin deficiencies.
  • Exposure to poisons. Harmful substances include industrial chemicals and heavy metals such as lead and mercury.
  • Medications. Certain medications, basically those used to treat cancer (chemotherapy), can cause peripheral neuropathy.
  • Trauma or pressure on the nerve. Traumas, such as motor vehicle accidents, falls or sports injuries, can serious peripheral nerves. Nerve pressure can cause from having a cast or using crutches or repeating a motion such as typing many times.
  • Vitamin deficiencies. B vitamins — including B-1, B-6, and B-12 — vitamin E and niacin are important to nerve health.

In a number of cases, no cause can be identified (idiopathic).

Risk factors

Peripheral neuropathy risk factors include:

  • Diabetes, especially if your sugar levels are badly controlled
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Vitamin deficiencies, particularly B vitamins
  • Infections, such as Lyme disease, shingles, Epstein-Barr virus, hepatitis B and C, and HIV
  • Autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, in which your immune system attacks your tissues
  • Kidney, liver or thyroid disorders
  • Exposure to toxins
  • Repetitive motion, such as those performed for specific  jobs
  • Family history of neuropathy


Complications of peripheral neuropathy can include:

  • Burns and skin trauma. You might not able to feel temperature changes or pain on parts of your body that are numb.
  • Infection. Your feet and other areas lacking sensation can become affected without your knowing. Check these areas regularly and treat these injuries first they become infected, especially if you have diabetes.
  • Falls. Weakness and lack of sensation may be associated with a lack of balance and falling.


One best way to protect from peripheral neuropathy is to balance medical conditions that put you at risk, such as diabetes, alcoholism, or rheumatoid arthritis.

Neuropathy in diabetes can cause severe complications that may affect as many as 50% of people with diabetes. But you can often prevent diabetic neuropathy or slow its progress with consistent blood sugar management and a healthy lifestyle.

Make healthy lifestyle choices

These habits support your nerve health:

  • Firstly, Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein to keep nerves healthy. Safe against vitamin B-12 deficiency by eating meats, fish, eggs, low-fat dairy foods, and cereals. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, cereals are a good source of vitamin B-12 but consult your doctor about B-12 supplements.
  • Secondly, Exercise regularly. With your doctor’s suggestion, try to get at least 30 minutes to one-hour for exercise at least three times a week.
  • Lastly, Avoid factors that may cause nerve damage, including repetitive motions, cramped positions that put a strain on nerves, exposure to harmful chemicals, smoking, and over usage of alcohol.

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