Peripheral Neuropathy Symptoms

Conservative estimates suggest that around 20 million Americans currently suffer some form of peripheral neuropathy.

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Diagnosing this condition – where the nerves in the body’s extremities (hands, feet, arms, etc) become damaged – is relatively straightforward, although specialist treatment is necessary to both identify the cause and create an effective treatment schedule.

Peripheral Neuropathy can affect the autonomic nerves, the motor nerves, and the sensory nerves. It is not unusual for a combination of different nerves to be damaged which means that symptoms are often quite different/unique between patients. It is also worth remembering that symptoms can worsen and diversify the longer the condition is left untreated.

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Autonomic Neuropathy

These symptoms tend to apply to bodily processes that we usually consider to be ‘automatic’ such as the digestive and circulatory system.

Key symptoms include:

  • Nausea, belching & bloating

  • Constipation and/or diarrhea (especially nighttime)

  • Loss of bladder control

  • Low blood pressure (often causing dizziness)

  • Excessive or lack of sweating

  • Rapid heartbeat

  • Difficulty urinating

  • Sexual dysfunction

Motor Neuropathy 

Symptoms can present themselves at any age although many people are diagnosed from age 40 and onwards. Pain is the most obvious and common symptom and often begins with quite innocuous issues. These may be constant or periodic, sharp/throbbing/freezing/shooting pains, in specific places or in more general areas. In some cases, pain may take many years to become worse, while in others the decline can be very sudden.

Key symptoms to be aware of include:

  • Muscle weakness and wasting over time

  •  Twitching and cramping

  • Numbness that can lead to eventual paralysis

  • Problems lining up the toes (known as ‘foot drop’)

These symptoms often manifest alongside some of those associated with autonomic neuropathy. Sweating incontinence, circulatory issues, dizziness, and heat intolerance are especially common. Quite a significant number of people brush these off as ‘signs of old age’ when the problem is in fact caused by treatable damage to their peripheral nerves.

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Sensory Neuropathy

Sensory Neuropathy affects how we experience sensations and can often be extremely uncomfortable. As with the forms we have already discussed, symptoms can appear in milder forms to begin with. These can either rapidly or very gradually worsen over time as the nerves suffer further damage and decline. Distressing as sensory neuropathy most certainly can be, early diagnosis and treatment will go a long way towards successfully overcoming the problem.

Key symptoms to look out for include:

  • Sharp and burning pains (especially in the feet)

  • Numbness and inability to detect changes in temperature

  • Experiencing severe pain from things that should not be painful whatsoever (e.g being brushed with a feather)

  • Loss of balance and coordination

  • Not knowing the position of hands and feet without looking

  • Pins and needles (both consistent and recurring)

Mononeuropathy

It is also worth mentioning the somewhat rarer condition called Mononeuropathy that mostly affects vision and sensation throughout the face/head. If you notice double vision or weakness across the cheeks it could be a symptom for either this or another form of peripheral neuropathy. As with all forms of this problem, early diagnosis significantly increases the likelihood of successful treatment.

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