What is peripheral neuropathy?
Peripheral neuropathy is a damage to one or more of your peripheral nerves— the ones in the periphery of your body, such as the nerves in your toes and fingertips —that carry messages to/from the brain and spinal cord from/to the rest of the body.
The damage means that they don't function properly, and the messages that travel between your central and peripheral nervous system are disrupted.
They can vary along with the type of nerves affected and include not only sensations that you feel and mention but also symptoms that you don’t often notice and won’t usually talk about.
Specific symptoms that you can feel and mention
- • Increased sensitivity to touch
- • Sharp pain
- • Extreme sensitivity to pain
- • Pins-and-needles sensation
- • Burning sensations
- • Tingling
Specific symptoms that you can’t feel and often you don’t mention
- • Reduced sensitivity to pain
- • Numbness
- • Reduced sense of touch or hot and cold
- • Muscle weakness
Additional symptoms which might be related to nerve damage
- • Muscle cramps
- • Twitching
- • Dizziness
- • Difficulty walking/climbing stairs
- • Bladder dysfunction
- • Increased heartbeat
- • Increased sweating
Symptoms may appear over days, weeks, months or years. Their duration and the ultimate outcome of the neuropathy are linked to the cause of the nerve damage. It is crucial to discover the symptoms and get treated correctly as early as possible!
Nerve impairment can arise from a number of causes, some of which are common, such as diabetes, and others are extremely rare, such as certain inherited disorders.
- • Chronic diseases (like diabetes)
- • Chronic alcohol abuse
- • Genetics
- • Environmental toxins (e.g. smoking)
- • Nutritional deficiencies, specifically B vitamins (caused by numerous conditions like unbalanced diet, malabsorption syndromes etc.)
- • Side effects of certain medications (chemotherapy, radiation therapy)
- • Other unexplained causes
There are several criteria to classify peripheral neuropathies, that can be divided according to:
The number of nerves affected:
- • Mononeuropathy ->
- only one nerve is damaged
- • Polyneuropathy ->
- multiple nerves are damaged
The kind of onset:
- • Acute ->
- relatively rapid onset, with recovery within 12 months
- • Chronic ->
- gradual development, with symptoms persistent intermittently for years. This is the most common type of neuropathy. In many cases the cause of neuropathy is also chronic e.g. diabetes.
The kind of nerves involved:
- • Motor nerves
- • Sensory nerves
- • Autonomic nerves
When multiple separate nerves in disparate areas of the body are affected, either simultaneously or sequentially, it’s the case of "Mononeuropathy multiplex”.
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