Peripheral Neuropathy

What is Peripheral Neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathy describes damage to the peripheral nervous system, which transmits information from the brain and spinal cord to every other part of the body.

More than 100 types of peripheral neuropathy have been identified, each with its own characteristic set of symptoms, pattern of development, and prognosis. Impaired function and symptoms depend on the type of nerves — motor, sensory, or autonomic — that are damaged.  Some people may experience temporary numbness, tingling, and pricking sensations, sensitivity to touch, or muscle weakness. Others may suffer more extreme symptoms, including burning pain (especially at night), muscle wasting, paralysis, or organ or gland dysfunction. Peripheral neuropathy may be either inherited or acquired. Causes of acquired peripheral neuropathy include physical injury (trauma) to a nerve, tumors, toxins, autoimmune responses, nutritional deficiencies, alcoholism, and vascular and metabolic disorders. Acquired peripheral neuropathies are caused by systemic disease, trauma from external agents, or infections or autoimmune disorders affecting nerve tissue. Inherited forms of peripheral neuropathy are caused by inborn mistakes in the genetic code or by new genetic mutations.

Is there any treatment?

No medical treatments exist that can cure inherited peripheral neuropathy. However, there are therapies for many other forms.  In general, adopting healthy habits — such as maintaining optimal weight, avoiding exposure to toxins, following a physician-supervised exercise program, eating a balanced diet, correcting vitamin deficiencies, and limiting or avoiding alcohol consumption — can reduce the physical and emotional effects of peripheral neuropathy.  Systemic diseases frequently require more complex treatments.

What is the prognosis?

In acute neuropathies, such as Guillain-Barré syndrome, symptoms appear suddenly, progress rapidly, and resolve slowly as damaged nerves heal. In chronic forms, symptoms begin subtly and progress slowly. Some people may have periods of relief followed by relapse. Others may reach a plateau stage where symptoms stay the same for many months or years. Some chronic neuropathies worsen over time, but very few forms prove fatal unless complicated by other diseases. Occasionally the neuropathy is a symptom of another disorder.

What research is being done?

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and other institutes of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conduct research related to peripheral neuropathies in laboratories at the NIH and also support additional research through grants to major medical institutions across the country.  Current research projects funded by the NINDS involve investigations of genetic factors associated with hereditary neuropathies, studies of biological mechanisms involved in diabetes-associated neuropathies, and investigations exploring how the immune system contributes to peripheral nerve damage.  Neuropathic pain is a primary target of NINDS-sponsored studies aimed at developing more effective therapies for symptoms of peripheral neuropathy. Some scientists hope to identify substances that will block the brain chemicals that generate pain signals, while others are investigating the pathways by which pain signals reach the brain.

Select this link to view a list of studies currently seeking patients.


American Chronic Pain Association (ACPA)
P.O. Box 850
Rocklin, CA   95677-0850
Tel: 916-632-0922 800-533-3231
Fax: 916-632-3208
Neuropathy Association
60 East 42nd Street
Suite 942
New York, NY   10165-0999
Tel: 212-692-0662
Fax: 212-692-0668

Related NINDS Publications and Information

Prepared by:
Office of Communications and Public Liaison
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892

The information provided here is in the public domain. My thanks to NINDS and the NIH for allowing it to be freely copied.


4 thoughts on “Peripheral Neuropathy

  1. Hi Esther!

    I hv RSD Stage 2.I have some good news and some bad news for you. First, the good news, your husband can NOT die solely from RSD/CRPS!! For the bad news….your husband i’m sure is in great pain and maybe pain he can’t understand why, thats one of the namy questions all of us “RSDers” have.

    Some physicians say that RSD is heridetary and some say no. Looking back as far as I can to my childhood I remember when I was about 7 or 8 yrs old my Mom would rub my legs with rubbing alcohol and loads of Bengay on me. I was hitby a car at 5, but I don’t remember what happened,etc. I believe that car accident had created permenant nerve damage to my legs and ankles. I believe something has to trigger the RSD from forming.

    I was diagnosed in March 2006 with RSD after I fell 10′ off a piece of playground equipment and my knee and leg never got better, it got very bad pain wise. This was a simple fall that I believe made my nerve damage worse and inflamed the nerves that had healed to some degree! Please tell your husband there is a good website to go to for support of RSD and I think it would be good for you to do a lot of info finding so you can have some understanding as to what your husband is going through and why certain things aren’t “right” with him, etc. Depression is ne of the biggest things to occur with your husband because of not being able to do the things he was able to do, etc.

    Take one day at a time and remember….your husband is not a mental case…he has a real disease!!! I can’t tell you enough to keep informed about this disease so you and your husband have a great understanding of what is going on and I will tell you this Esther, your relationship will be tested because of this disease so be strong and don’t let anything get in the way of your love for your husband!!

    God Bless Always


  2. Hi I am a 58 year old female and I had Ovarian Cancer in 2005 with Surgury to remove a large tumor mass with Chemo and I tried to go on with life which I thought I would do however, I was let go by the Company I was with although I fought to keep my job by holding onto my rights and I worked very hard to keep working. I was put into part time although I was told I was doing my job. After Chemo, I started working on getting better by walking but suffered immence pain in my legs. I started having severe leg pain after my 2nd chemo treatment. I was sick with other sympthoms but the pain was the worst. Then on July 4th, 2006, while vacationing in another State, I fell into a Diabetic Coma of which I was finally found by a family member and taken to the Hosp in another state due complications of the coma and also an infected gall bladder which I had to have surgury. I was on life support for weeks but finally revived. The Hospital was amazing to help me and I had grown to love the people that took care of me while I was so ill. All that time and to today, I have a lot of PN pain and my legs are the worse. I did try working another part-time job however, I had all my hours taken away due an accident that I had when I dropped things from my hands of which caused cuts on my hand and bleeding but I was trying to deal with it. I also almost had to crawl to and from this job. I always feel bad but I try to keep a smile and act normal. I couldn’t keep my shoes on and I sat on a stool although it was difficult to sit down on the job. At night, I cannot sleep very well without help but I am groggy if I take anything. That little job due all the pain was a nightmare but it was a job. I don’t work now and have been on disability. I do tend to fall as I cannot find balance at times. For whatever reason, I can walk and my GP advised on the pain I was having. My question and concer is this: it seems to affect my whole body, my back, my bladder, legs, arms, hands, back of neck and head and so on. My current diabetic DR does not seem to know of my problem although diabetes is his work. I have asked him that I can go to the pain clinic for possible relief – is this advisable with someone with neurological pain? I take Cymbalta 60 AM and 30 PM along with Metformin AM and PM as well and along with a few other meds such as Glipizide which can be scary due its affect on reducing blood sugar so fast I get the “shakes” – I also have to take Lipitor due HC. I cannot seem to find someone who can understand the severe pain I have with NP but it seems worse than that. No one seems to understand and my DR said that “he did not know what could have happened to me” although he treats me currently. Are you able to help me understand what I may be suffering through. I also suffer from Depression and Anxiety. I have an unshakable faith in God and appreciate being a Survivor. Sincerely, Glenda Whittington


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