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What is Peripheral Neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathy is the result of damage to nerves inside the body that are outside of the brain and spinal cord, which causes numbness, pain, and weakness to areas like the hands and feet. Often, this damage occurs from injuries that are traumatic in nature, or from infections or exposure to toxins. Those who experience peripheral neuropathy often describe the symptoms as stabbing, feelings of pain, burning, or tingling within their nerves.


What Are Possible Causes?

One of the most common causes of peripheral neuropathy is diabetes. More than half of people who suffer from diabetes will experience symptoms related to neuropathy during their lifetime. Other common causes are autoimmune diseases, viral or bacterial infections, tumors, alcoholism, or other diseases. Additionally, physical injury from experiences such as car accidents, extreme sports, or bad falls can cause damage to nerves within the body and can lead to peripheral neuropathy issues.


Signs & Symptoms To Look For

Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy are dependent on the types of nerves that are affected:


  • Motor nerve damage leads to muscle weakness, painful cramps, muscle twitching, and in some cases, muscular atrophy
  • Sensory nerve damage causes a variety of symptoms as sensory nerves have a large range of functions – symptoms could include a loss of feeling of light touch or vibrations, inability to coordinate complex movements (like tying a tie or buttoning buttons), and an inability to feel pain
  • Autonomic nerve damage leads to excess sweating, an intolerance to heat, trouble regulating blood pressure, and various gastrointestinal symptoms


Diagnosing and Types of Treatments

Because of the broad range of possible symptoms, medical teams may have trouble making a diagnosis. However, doctors are usually able to uncover peripheral neuropathy after looking into a patient’s medical history for pre-existing conditions that can cause these types of issues, looking for evidence of any diseases in the body that can cause nerve damage, and by running a variety of tests.


Once a diagnosis has been made, various treatments may be recommended. The types of treatment will differ on a case-by-case basis depending on the type of nerve damage identified. Your doctor will typically uncover the root cause of the symptoms and work with you on strategies to manage their effects on your nervous system. As long as nerve cells have not completely died, ongoing treatment can restore overall function and patients can typically experience recovery.


Medications may also be recommended to treat any underlying diseases that are causing nerve damage. Local anesthetics that block nerve conditions may also be used to give patients reprieve from their symptoms.


The best treatment for peripheral neuropathy is prevention. Avoiding injuries, unnecessary surgeries, and diseases mitigate the risk of internal nerve damage that causes these uncomfortable symptoms.


Next Steps

If you think you are experiencing nerve-related issues, you should consider early diagnosis and treatment if symptoms are showing. Foothills Neurology consists of an experienced and professional team of neurologists who specialize in conditions that affect the nervous system. With our background, we are able to provide the treatment you need. See how we can help by scheduling a consultation with a neurologist today!

Foothills Neurology