Peripheral Neuropathy - Experience

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What is peripheral neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathy is disorder of nerve(s) apart from the brain and spinal cord. Patients with peripheral neuropathy may have tingling, numbness, unusual sensations, weakness, or burning pain in the affected area. Oftentimes, the symptoms are symmetrical and involve both hands and feet. Because the symptoms are often present in the areas covered by gloves or stockings, peripheral neuropathy is often described as having a glove and stocking distribution of symptoms.

Peripheral neuropathy can involve different nerve types, including motor, sensory, and autonomic nerves. Peripheral neuropathy can also be categorized by the size of the nerve fibers involved, large or small.

Neuropathy can present with many differing symptoms, including numbness, pain of different types, weakness, or loss of balance, depending on the type of nerve involved. Because the autonomic nerves control bodily functions that we do not consciously think of, such as heart rate, digestion, and emptying of the bowel and bladder, autonomic neuropathy manifests with symptoms affecting the loss of control of these functions. Symptoms may include problems with blood pressure, voiding, passage of stools (diarrhea, or constipation), heart rate, or sweating.

Cranial neuropathy is similar to peripheral neuropathy, except that the cranial nerves are involved. Any of the cranial nerves can be involved. One of the more common causes of cranial neuropathy is loss of blood flow from the optic artery to the optic nerve, causing ischemic optic neuropathy. Amyloidosis is one of the more common causes of this rare disorder.

Specific nerves can be involved in neuropathy. When a specific nerve is involved, the symptoms are limited to the distribution of that nerve. The most commonly involved peripheral nerve is the median nerve at the wrist in carpal tunnel syndrome. Essentially any peripheral nerve can become entrapped and cause the signs and symptoms of neuropathy. The ulnar nerve is commonly entrapped at the elbow. The peroneal nerve is exposed at the outer part of the knee. The pudendal nerve can cause pain in the perineum and is relieved by sitting on a toilet seat or an inflatable donut. Entrapment of the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve at the waist, called meralgia paresthetica, causes numbness at the outer part of the thigh.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: mdstjohn, 45-54 Male (Patient) Published: March 08

I have diabetic peripheral neuropathy. My symptoms appeared last May. It started with some pain and my left leg not doing what I asked it to do. I fell and gave myself a nice shiner and hurt my hands. This progressed where now I have constant pain in my left foot and pins and needles in my left leg, oh, and I have shooting pain in my big toe and alternatively my middle toes. I was on Neurontin and gabapentin in November and December, the only pain medication that made the pain bearable was hydrocodone (Vicodin) during that time. In mid-January my doctor switched me to Lyrica and the shooting pain went from every few minutes to every few hours. I still take Vicodin occasionally and take the maximum dose of tramadol. I still have pain but have to balance pain medicines with being able to work. I have had struggles with the disability management and am currently back at work, though I really shouldn't be. I would suggest for those having struggles with your doctor to get a new doctor until you feel it is under control. My doctor has had this condition, although less severe, and understands the pain. My best for the others struggling with this, it is painful and depressing.

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Comment from: Terry, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: April 14

I was diagnosed with idiopathic peripheral neuropathy (PN) by a neurologist. I had a B12 level of 150. Later on I discovered this was actually low although I had been told it was normal. I have joined a B12 deficiency support group and a lot of people in the group with neurological symptoms were misdiagnosed. Anything under 300 with symptoms should be further assessed (methylmalonic acid or homocysteine test). Furthermore if you have neurological symptoms with B12 deficiency you need to have frequent injections; every other day until no further improvement of neuro symptoms. A lot of us self-inject so we can get proper treatment. A lot of doctors don't know much about vitamin B12 deficiency.

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