Peripheral neuropathy is damage to the nerves that connect the spinal cord to the rest of the body.
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Nerve damage may be from:
- Trauma due to:
- Something pressing on the nerve
- Some medicines, such as chemotherapy for cancer
- Lack of certain vitamins
- Exposure to toxins and heavy metals, such as lead, mercury, or pesticides
- Exposure to cold or radiation
- Alcohol use disorder
Health problems that can damage these nerves are:
Having certain health problems may raise the risk of getting peripheral neuropathy.
Nerve damage may cause problems with feeling and movement in the arms, hands, legs, and feet. Other parts of the body may also have problems. It depends on which nerves are affected.
Problems may be mild and then get worse over time. They may be worse at night. A person may have:
- Numbness or lack of feeling
- Pain, often a burning or sharp, or cutting feeling
- Sensitivity when touched
- Muscle spasms
- Muscle weakness
- Problems walking
- Loss of coordination or balance
The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. Blood and urine tests will be done to rule out other problems or possible causes.
Nerves will be tested. This can be done with:
Other tests to look for possible causes may be:
Treatment depends on what is causing the neuropathy. This can ease symptoms or make them go away. Other treatment options may be:
Manage long term health problems, such as diabetes. This may prevent some forms of peripheral neuropathy.
Exercises may be given to help with flexibility. It may help make walking easier.
- Barrell K, Smith AG. Peripheral Neuropathy. Med Clin North Am. 2019 Mar;103(2):383-397.
- Peripheral neuropathy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/peripheral-neuropathy.
- Peripheral neuropathy fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/patient-caregiver-education/fact-sheets/peripheral-neuropathy-fact-sheet.
- Mark D. Arredondo, MD
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