Peripheral Neuropathy: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

What is peripheral neuropathy?

Your peripheral nervous system connects the nerves from your brain and spinal cord, or central nervous system, to the rest of your body. This includes your:

  • arms
  • hands
  • feet
  • legs
  • internal organs
  • mouth
  • face

The job of these nerves is to deliver signals about physical sensations back to your brain.

Peripheral neuropathy is a disorder that occurs when these nerves malfunction because they’re damaged or destroyed. This disrupts the nerves’ normal functioning. They might send signals of pain when there’s nothing causing pain, or they might not send a pain signal even if something is harming you. This can be due to:

  • an injury
  • systemic illness
  • an infection
  • an inherited disorder

The disorder is uncomfortable, but treatments can be very helpful. The most important thing to determine is whether peripheral neuropathy is the result of a serious underlying condition.

What are the types of peripheral neuropathy?

More than 100 different types of peripheral neuropathy exist. Each type has unique symptoms and specific treatment options. Peripheral neuropathies are further classified by the type of nerve damage involved. Mononeuropathy occurs when only one nerve is damaged. Polyneuropathies, which are more common, occur when multiple nerves are damaged.

What are the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy?

The three types of peripheral nerves are:

  • sensory nerves, which connect to your skin
  • motor nerves, which connect to your muscles
  • autonomic nerves, which connect to your internal organs

Peripheral neuropathy can affect one nerve group or all three.

The symptoms of peripheral neuropathy include:

  • tingling in the hands or feet
  • a feeling like you’re wearing a tight glove or sock
  • sharp, stabbing pains
  • numbness in the hands or feet
  • a weak, heavy feeling in the arms and legs, which sometimes may feel like your legs or arms lock in place
  • regularly dropping things from your hands
  • a buzzing or shocking sensation
  • thinning of the skin
  • a drop in blood pressure
  • sexual dysfunction, especially in men
  • constipation
  • digestive difficulty
  • diarrhea
  • excessive sweating

These symptoms can also indicate other conditions. Make sure you tell your doctor about all of your symptoms.