Peripheral neuropathy affects nerves beyond or outside the spinal column. It is a degenerative, toxic, or nutritional condition affecting nerves that branch into the body’s extremities, such as the arms or legs. Diabetes or certain drugs can cause or contribute to the development of peripheral neuropathies, a disease process that may cause nerve deterioration and inability to carry or transmit nerve impulses. When a nerve cannot longer send or receive impulses or signals, sensory (feeling) and/or motor (movement) function may affected or lost.
Symptoms may include burning or a feeling of pins and needles, numbness in the toes or fingers, and weakness when gripping an object or while walking. Medication may help to slow the effects of peripheral neuropathy but may not cure or stops its progression.
Every nerve in your peripheral system has a specific function, so symptoms depend on the type of nerves affected. Nerves are classified into:
- Sensory nerves that receive sensation, such as temperature, pain, vibration or touch, from the skin
- Motor nerves that control muscle movement
- Autonomic nerves that control functions such as blood pressure, heart rate, digestion and bladder
Signs and symptoms of peripheral neuropathy might include:
- Gradual onset of numbness, prickling or tingling in your feet or hands, which can spread upward into your legs and arms
- Sharp, jabbing, throbbing, freezing or burning pain
- Extreme sensitivity to touch
- Lack of coordination and falling
- Muscle weakness or paralysis if motor nerves are affected
If autonomic nerves are affected, signs and symptoms might include:
- Heat intolerance and altered sweating
- Bowel, bladder or digestive problems
- Changes in blood pressure, causing dizziness or lightheadedness