Neuropathic Pain / Peripheral Neuropathy

Neuropathic pain or peripheral neuropathy is among the leading causes of chronic pain in the U.S. According to the American Chronic Pain Association, it affects up to 10% of the population. Depending on the cause, neuropathic pain can be reversed or managed with proper treatment.

What Is Peripheral Neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathy affects the network of nerves that facilitate communication between the spinal cord, the brain, and the rest of the body. This network is called the peripheral nervous system. Any disease that causes nerve damage in the peripheral nervous system falls under the umbrella term of peripheral neuropathy.

There are four main types of peripheral neuropathy:

Autonomic Nerve
Motor Neuropathy

Multifocal motor neuropathy (MMN) affects the motor nerves, which are the nerves that control the muscles. Patients with MMN suffer from weak, twitching, or cramping muscles because their motor nerves are being attacked by their immune systems.

Sensory Neuropathy

Sensory neuropathy affects the nerves associated with the sense of touch, including temperature and pain.

Autonomic Nerve Neuropathy

The autonomic nerves control unconscious actions, such as breathing and digestion. Autonomic nerve neuropathy is a severe condition.

Combination Neuropathies

Combination neuropathies, such as sensory-motor neuropathy, affect multiple parts of your nervous system.

What Are the Causes of Peripheral Neuropathy?

In the U.S., the most common cause of peripheral neuropathy is diabetes. Other diseases and medical conditions that can lead to peripheral neuropathy include:

Autoimmune diseases
Bone marrow disorders
Kidney disease
Liver disease
Connective tissue disorders
Inherited disorders

Peripheral neuropathy can also result from infections, injuries, vitamin deficiencies, alcoholism, poor dietary choices, and chemotherapy medications.

In some instances, the condition may be reversible once the cause is resolved.

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Rendering of a nerve cluster

What Are the Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy?

There are over 100 types of peripheral neuropathy. The symptoms vary widely, depending on which nerves are affected and many other factors.

man with a cane struggling to stand up right.

Symptoms of Motor Neuropathy

As the motor nerves deteriorate, patients can experience muscle weakness and difficulty moving. In addition, the lack of nerve connection may cause muscle atrophy or muscle shrinkage.

Muscle atrophy is especially common in the feet, lower legs, and hands. Lastly, patients with motor neuropathy may experience uncontrolled movements, such as muscle twitching or painful cramps caused by hyperactive contractions.

Symptoms of Sensory Neuropathy

Sensory neuropathy disrupts how the senses communicate information from the outside world to the brain.

One common symptom is a tingling sensation — almost like radio static — that keeps messages from coming through clearly. In addition, when the nerves struggle to send or relay signals, patients may experience a loss of sensation, numbness, or tingling that overrides other feelings in the skin.

The misfires in the sensory nervous system caused by neuropathy can also lead to imbalance, clumsiness, and spontaneous or overly intense nerve pain.

Doctor testing patient for sensory neuropathy.
Doctor taking patient's blood pressure.

Symptoms of Autonomic Neuropathy

The body’s autonomic processes, such as sweating, breathing, and digestion, occur without awareness. The autonomic nerves carry those signals, and when they become damaged, these processes suffer.

Symptoms of autonomic neuropathy include sudden blood pressure changes and too much or too little sweating, which leads to issues managing internal body temperature.

In addition, autonomic neuropathy can cause bowel and bladder issues, such as constipation, diarrhea, or loss of bladder control. The autonomic nervous system also controls sexual arousal, so patients with autonomic neuropathy can experience sexual dysfunction.

What Is the Best Way to Manage Peripheral Neuropathy?

Some causes of peripheral neuropathy, such as vitamin deficiencies, are preventable. Those who are more susceptible to developing peripheral neuropathy can lower the chances or delay the development of the condition by taking these precautionary steps:

Exercise regularly
Quit smoking
Eat healthy meals
Take care of your feet, especially if you have diabetes
Monitor your blood glucose levels
Avoid excessive alcohol use

Finally, proper treatment under the guidance of a skilled neurologist can help you manage or even recover from peripheral neuropathy.

a woman stretching her leg by holding onto her foot.

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Los Angeles, CA 90025
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