15 Signs You Could Have Peripheral Neuropathy

Janice F. Wiesman, MD, FAAN, describes the signs of nerve damage in ‘Peripheral Neuropathy: What It Is and What You Can Do to Feel Better.’

What is peripheral neuropathy?

Your body has a network of nerves that send messages from your brain and spinal cord to other parts of your body. Different conditions, such as carpal tunnel or diabetes, could lead to nerve damage called peripheral neuropathy that affects almost every area in your body, from your muscles to your internal organs. Symptoms could feel mildly uncomfortable or be disabling to those with the condition, and Dr. Wiesman describes the signs in the book  Peripheral Neuropathy.

Your feet and legs feel tingly

Often, the first symptoms of neuropathy have to do with the sense of touch. Your extremities might feel like they’re tingling, burning, itching, shooting, or like ants are crawling on you. “Normal stimulation of the skin, such as a light touch of clothing or bedsheets on the legs, can feel uncomfortable or painful,” writes Dr. Wiesman. You’ll probably feel these sensations first in your toes and feet, which are at the ends of your longest nerves. Eventually the feeling will make its way up your ankles and legs. By the time it reaches your knee, your hands, which are about the same length as them, will also get involved. (Try these home remedies for restless leg syndrome if your tingling is from RLS.)

You experience numbness

When information about sensation in the feet or joints doesn’t reach your brain, you’ll stop feeling those parts of your body. You might even feel off-balance because your brain can’t figure out where you are in space. “People with neuropathy wonder how their feet can feel numb and painful at the same time,” writes Dr. Wiesman. “The answer lies in the different functions of the various sensory nerve types.” Some of the axons that send information from the nerve cell fire impulses randomly, which the brain interprets as tingling or pain, while others can’t deliver information to the brain at all, leading to numbness. Here’s why you should never ignore these types of pain.