Peripheral Neuropathy Q&A

What is peripheral neuropathy?

Your peripheral nervous system includes any of the nerves that exist outside of your spinal column and brain. Peripheral neuropathy occurs when your peripheral nerves are diseased or damaged and lose their ability to function normally.

One type of peripheral neuropathy is known as small fiber neuropathy and involves the countless small nerves that send information from your brain and spinal cord to the rest of your body.

These nerves include:

  • Sensory nerves, which involve temperature, pain, vibration, touch, and other sensations on the skin
  • Motor nerves, which control muscle movement
  • Autonomic nerves, which control your blood pressure, heart rate, digestion, and bladder function

What are the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy?

The symptoms you experience depend on the nerves affected. Neuropathy involving your sensory nerves, for instance, may cause:

  • Numbness and tingling in your feet or hands, which can eventually spread upward into your legs or arms
  • Sharp, stabbing, freezing or burning pain
  • Extreme sensitivity to touch

When motor nerves are affected, you may experience muscle weakness and loss of coordination.

If your autonomic nerves are affected, you may develop:

  • Heat intolerance and sweating that’s different from your previous “normal” pattern
  • Bowel, bladder, or digestive issues
  • Changes in blood pressure that may cause dizziness or lightheadedness

What is diabetic neuropathy?

Diabetic neuropathy is one of the complications of diabetes and is caused by high blood sugar, which can injure nerves throughout your body.

It most often affects sensory nerves in your legs and feet but can also cause problems with autonomic nerves, which may slow your digestive system (gastroparesis), cause issues with your heart and blood vessels, and create a wide variety of other serious conditions.

What is the treatment for peripheral neuropathy?

There are many therapies available to help control the effects of peripheral neuropathy. But the first step in effective treatment is identifying the extent of your nerve injury. Dr. Khan may use EMG and nerve conduction studies, skin nerve biopsies, or other diagnostic tests to evaluate your neuropathy.

He may also recommend:

  • Medications for pain relief
  • Improved nutrition through diet and supplements that provide the nutrients healthy nerves require
  • Regular exercise
  • Tight control of diabetes, thyroid disorders, and other conditions that can cause peripheral neuropathy
  • Physical therapy to help improve balance, coordination, and strength

If you’re having signs of peripheral neuropathy, make an appointment today at Arizona Institute of Neurology and Polysomnography.


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