Your nerves carry information to and from the brain. They also carry signals to and from the spinal cord. You have many nerves outside of your spinal cord. They are all a part of your peripheral nervous system. They work with your brain and spinal cord. All of these parts give your body information about senses, moving, and the environment. Damage to any of the nerves outside of your brain or spinal cord is peripheral neuropathy. What you feel and where it is will depend on what nerves are affected.

What causes Peripheral Neuropathy?

Sometimes, the cause is not known.

What can make this more likely to happen?

Having a health problem for a long period of time. These illnesses may include:

High blood sugar

Chronic kidney disease

Rheumatoid arthritis or lupus

Drugs used to treat other diseases

Toxins like heavy alcohol use or pesticides

Pressure on a nerve or a broken bone

Other things like problems with blood flow or swelling

What are the main signs?

The signs depend on what nerves are damaged. They may include:

Pain, numbness, and tingling that often starts in the feet or hands

Not able to feel hot or cold

More sensitive to touching things

Poor coordination, muscle weakness, cramping, or twitching

Bowel and bladder problems like loose or hard stools, leaking urine, not able to pass urine

Trouble swallowing or breathing


Lots of sweating

Sex problems

How is this problem diagnosed?

Your provider will do an exam and ask about your history. Your doctor will feel around the area of the body where you are having problems. Your doctor will check the feeling in your arms and legs. Your reflexes, motion, and strength will also be checked. If your problems are in your legs, your provider may have you walk and stand on your heels and toes. The doctor may order:

Lab tests

Nerve conduction velocity test (NCV) − to see how fast electrical signals go through nerves

Electromyelogram (EMG) − to look at how well the nerves are working in the muscles

Spinal tap

CT or MRI scan

Nerve or skin biopsy to look at nerve tissue

How Is Peripheral Neuropathy Treated?

Treating your neuropathy means treating the cause. This may include:

Controlling blood sugar

Limiting use of beer, wine, and mixed drinks (alcohol)

Treating a vitamin deficiency

Quitting smoking

Brace or splint to keep pressure off the nerves

Cane, walker, or wheelchair to help you get around safely

Compression sleeves or stockings

Exercises for strengthening weak muscles and stretching tight muscles


Ventilator if breathing is very poor


Are there other health problems to treat?

If neuropathy is causing trouble with certain things such as balance, digestion, or bladder and bowel function, these things will need to be treated.

What drugs may be needed?

Your provider may order drugs to:

Control blood sugar

Help with pain

Suppress the immune system

Help with eating, bathroom, or sex problems

What problems could happen?

Long-term pain or nerve damage

Sores on the feet

Loss of balance, trouble walking, and a higher risk of falling

Damage to peripheral nerves can affect your blood flow and heartbeat

What can be done to prevent this health problem?

Control high blood sugar.

Limit alcohol use.

If you are a smoker, quit. Smoking lessens the blood supply to peripheral nerves.

If you have a vitamin deficiency, talk to your doctor to see if you need to add any vitamins to your diet.

Keep a healthy weight. If you are overweight, lose weight.

Avoid toxic chemicals, pesticides, and other toxins.

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