What is Peripheral Neuropathy?

Peripheral Neuropathy (PN) is a condition in which our peripheral nervous system, or the nerves outside brain and spinal chord gets damaged. PN can cause severe weakness and numbness in limbs, shooting and prick-like pain, and general aches in many body areas. It affects the nerve networks all over the body and can interfere with the information passage to and from the brain. PN is not curable in most cases, but patients can lead a normal life through sustained medication and therapy. 

What causes Peripheral Neuropathy?

Peripheral Neuropathy can be caused by anything that may result in nerve damage. It may be a side-effect of other medications, or a result of long-term diseases. Here are a few things that can lead to PN later on:

  • Traumatic injuries
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer chemotherapy (Chemo-induced PN)
  • Medications for certain diseases like cancer or HIV/AID 
  • Chronic alcohol abuse
  • Inflammatory or infectious diseases
  • Exposure to toxins
  • Malnutrition
  • Vitamin deficiency
  • Kidney failure
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Hereditary diseases

Diabetes is one of the most common causes of PN, while cancer patients who need chemotherapy are also at high risk. In a small percentage of patients, PN may occur without any conceivable cause. This type is called Idiopathic Neuropathy.

Symptoms

The symptoms of PN depend upon what type of nerve is affected by it. The peripheral nervous system is responsible for carrying information to and from the brain and spinal chord into the other parts of the body. It can affect all three types of nerves in our body - sensory, motor, and autonomic. Signs may include:

  • Numbness, prickling, or tickling sensation in hands or feet that progresses through arm or leg.
  • Sharp, stabbing pain in different limbs, often without any visible cause, even contact.
  • Extreme sensitivity to touch and heat.
  • Either excessive or non-existent sweating.
  • Muscle weariness.
  • Sudden drops or spikes in blood pressure and dizziness.
  • Lack of coordination and balance.
  • Partial and temporary paralysis of certain limbs.