Peripheral Neuropathy : What is it?

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Peripheral Neuropathy
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What is it?

Peripheral neuropathy results from injury to the peripheral nerves in the body. These nerves carry signals between the central nervous system (the brain and spinal column) and the muscles, skin, and internal organs. When peripheral neuropathy first develops, people often report a tingling or prickling in the toes, although it can also start in the fingers. Over time, the tingling gradually spreads up the feet or hands and worsens into a burning, shooting, and/or throbbing pain. People who have severe peripheral neuropathy may experience extreme pain and may have difficulty walking, sometimes requiring the assistance of a cane or wheelchair to move around.

People who have peripheral neuropathy usually experience symptoms on both sides of their bodies. In other words, peripheral neuropathy almost always occurs in both feet and/or both hands. The sensations can be either constant or periodic. Sometimes they may not be noticeable, while at other times they may be extremely bothersome.

Not only can peripheral neuropathy be physically painful, it can also have a profound effect on quality of life. The natural instinct to avoid or reduce pain can prevent people from going about their regular day-to-day activities, whether it be going up and down stairs, visiting with family or friends, or going to work. This can cause a great deal of anxiety and can lead to serious depression—serious emotional problems that can make life seem altogether frustrating.


Last Revised: June 22, 2011

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