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: yoshi g, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: July 14

I have been suffering peripheral neuropathy for over ten years and it took me about four years to be diagnosed. My doctors made me feel it was in my head but once I was seen by a consultant they diagnosed me. The first couple of years it affected my hands and feet, then over the years my legs, my bladder, and bowel. I had strange pains and spasms. I rely on my partner and now full time caregiver for everything. I feel I have lost any independence I ever had and wish there was a cure or at least more understanding about this condition. Every day I wake up after a terrible night's sleep and have constant pain and wonder if it will ever stop, but it doesn't. When I have really bad months and new symptoms I have to go to new doctors and feel I am getting nowhere and makes me more depressed. I have been on different medicines over the years but not a lot helps. It has changed my life forever. I used to work all my life and now am made to feel bad and a burden on everyone and the state. I think people outside don't know or care about how distressing this illness is. I hope one day they will be able to help all people with neuropathy as they don't do enough for the sufferers out there.

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Comment from: Dewberry, 65-74 Male (Patient) Published: September 03

It started with numbness and tingling in my legs and feet (left side worse). Walking was difficult because my balance was affected. I had EMG and MRI in January and was diagnosed with idiopathic neuropathy, although I believe polio as a child may have contributed, or thyroid imbalances in the last 30 years. I have been receiving Immunoglobulin therapy. I just had my 3rd session (5 days each session every 2 months). Side effects are mouth infections, hypertension, migraine type headache, sickness and vomiting, which last 3 days post infusion. Neurologist doesn't believe physiotherapy will be useful.

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