Peripheral neuropathy is a common condition occuring when injury or disease damages your peripheral nervous system.
Originating from your brain and spinal cord, peripheral nerves extend to your skin, muscle and tissues.
Your peripheral nervous system relays vital information between your body and the brain in the form of electrical impulses.
There are three types of peripheral nerves. Motor nerves regulate the movements of your body's skeletal muscles.
Sensory nerves transmit sensations such as heat, vibration, touch, and pain to the brain.
Autonomic nerves regulate the activities of internal organs and glands.
Each nerve is made up of many interconnected cells, called neurons, that transmit impulses at lightning speed.
This constant exchange allows your brain to respond to vital input from your body.
However, damage to the nerves disrupts this critical link, resulting in peripheral neuropathy.
Damage to a single nerve, called mononeuropathy, usually results from injury or repetitive stress.
An example of mononeuropathy is carpal tunnel syndrome.
Repeated impact to the nerve in your wrist may cause tingling, pain, and weakness in your hand, arm and shoulder.
Involvement of multiple nerves, called polyneuropathy, is far more common.
Damage typically begins in nerves farthest from the central nervous system and progresses symmetrically.
Polyneuropathy can be caused by: diabetes and other systemic diseases, infections, or exposure to toxic substances.
One or all of the three nerve types may be affected, and symptoms are specific to each.
Damage to sensory nerves, characteristic of diabetes, can lead to numbness in your hands and feet,
with diminished ability to detect temperature, insensitivity to pain, or oversensitivity to pain.
Polyneuropathy may also cause damage your motor nerves, which can result in muscle weakness, twitching, and pain.
Common signs of autonomic nerve damage include intolerance to heat, loss of bladder control, gastrointestinal disturbances,
impairment of breathing, and impairment of heart rate.
Generally, treatment of peripheral neuropathy is aimed at treating the underlying cause and providing symptomatic relief.
If you have mononeuropathy, you may receive pain relief medications, physical therapy to maintain muscle strength,
or surgery to release compressed or entrapped nerves.
If you have polyneuropathy, your doctor will treat the underlying disease to prevent further damage to the nerves.
He or she may recommend pain medication to relieve your symptoms.
If you have polyneuropathy with sensory impairment, your doctor may recommend orthopedic shoes to prevent foot injury.