Peripheral Neuropathy

What is Peripheral Neuropathy?

Peripheral nerves are those that carry signals to and from the brain, between the spinal cord and the rest of the body. Peripheral neuropathy is a condition where the peripheral nerves get damaged, often resulting in numbness and pain in the hands and feet. Typically, people feel a tingling, burning or a complete loss of sensation.

Peripheral neuropathy is often caused by underlying conditions, with diabetes being a major cause. It can also develop after traumatic injuries, infections and exposure to toxins.

In many cases, the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy improve over time. This happens most often in cases where the underlying cause of the peripheral neuropathy improves with treatment. A number of medications are also available that can reduce the pain associated with peripheral neuropathy.

Types of Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy can be classified into five different categories depending on the number and type of nerve cell affected or the process affecting the nerve. They are:

  • Mononeuropathy: This is a type of neuropathy that affects a single nerve. The most common cause is the compression of a single nerve, also known as compression neuropathy. The sensation of “pins and needles” when your foot or hand falls “asleep” is one such example, albeit a reversible one. Direct injury to a nerve, interruption of blood supply or inflammation is some of the other causes of mononeuropathy.
  • Mononeuritis Multiplex: This type of neuropathy involves the simultaneous or sequential involvement of individual nerves that are noncontiguous. It evolves over a period of time and involves an acute loss of motor or sensory function of individual nerves. It is often difficult to distinguish from polyneuropathy.
  • Polyneuropathy: This is a pattern of nerve damage that, unlike mononeuropathy, is often more serious and affects more areas of the body. Many nerve cells in many different parts of the body are affected.
  • Autonomic Neuropathy: This is a form of polyneuropathy that affects the autonomic nervous system. Mostly, it affects the internal organs like the bladder muscles, the digestive tract, the genital organs and the cardiovascular system. These are all organs that are controlled by nerves not under a person’s conscious control and function automatically. It is most commonly observed in people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes mellitus.
  • Neuritis: This is a general term for inflammation of the peripheral nervous system. The symptoms vary, depending on the nerves involved and may include pain, paresthesia (pins and needles), paralysis and a disappearance of reflexes.

Frequently asked questions
  2. * Pieber K, Herceg M, Paternostro-Sluga T (April 2010). "Electrotherapy for the treatment of painful diabetic peripheral neuropathy: a review". J Rehabil Med 42 (4): 289–95
  3. ** Acupuncture for the treatment of chronic painful peripheral diabetic neuropathy: a long-term study B.B Abuaisha, J.B Costanzi, A.J.M Boulton