What is Peripheral Neuropathy?

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hands and feet

About Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy is a condition that causes weakness, numbness and pain, typically occurring in your hands and feet. People with peripheral neuropathy generally describe a tingling feeling, or stabbing or burning pain.

Peripheral neuropathy is caused when damage occurs to your peripheral nerves. While there are several causes, it is most commonly brought on by diabetes mellitus. It can also be caused from a traumatic injury, infection, metabolic problem, genetics or exposure to toxins.

Your peripheral nerves send signals from your brain and spinal cord throughout the rest of your body.

Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy

You have several nerves in your peripheral system, and each has a different function. Because of this, there are many different symptoms that a person with peripheral neuropathy might experience, depending on which nerves are affected.

Nerves are typically classified into three categories: sensory, motor and autonomic. Here is a breakdown of each category:

  • Sensory nerves: your feeling nerves, which are impacted by sensations too your skin, such as temperature, pain or vibration
  • Motor nerves: control muscle movement
  • Autonomic nerves: control bodily functions, such as blood pressure, heart rate, digestion and bladder

The most common symptoms include:

  • Gradually occurring numbness, prickling or tingling in your feet or hands, which can eventually spread into your arms and legs
  • Sharp, jabbing, throbbing, freezing or burning pain
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Lack of coordination
  • Muscle weakness or paralysis

Causes of Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy affects many different areas of the body, and can be caused by many different things. Here are some common causes:

  • Alcoholism
  • Autoimmune diseases, such as Sjogren’s syndrome, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Guillain-Barre syndrome, chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy and necrotizing vasculitis
  • Diabetes
  • Exposure to toxins
  • Medications, especially those used to treat cancer
  • Infections
  • Genes
  • Nerve trauma or pressure
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Bone marrow disorders, such as abnormal protein in the blood, osteosclerotic myeloma, lymphoma and amyloidosis

If you are experiencing abnormal pain or tingling, consult with your primary care doctor immediately. He or she will be able to guide you in the right direction to start feeling better.

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