Peripheral nerves keep busy getting information to your brain and carrying signals between your spinal cord and the rest of your body.
When those nerves aren’t working right, you have peripheral neuropathy.
Peripheral neuropathy is a result of damage to the peripheral nerves. That nerve damage causes weakness, numbness and pain. The symptoms usually are in your hands and feel, but it’s not uncommon to have them in other parts of your body.
Many people complain of tingling or burning; others say there’s a loss of feeling or a feeling akin to wearing a stocking or glove.
The most common cause of peripheral neuropathy is diabetes. Other causes are injuries, infections, toxic exposure or metabolism problems.
Peripheral neuropathy may affect:
- The nerves that sense heat, pain or touch
- The nerves that control how your muscles move
- The nerves that control blood pressure, heart rate, digestion and bladder function
It’s not easy to find the cause of peripheral neuropathy. For instance, you may feel symptoms in your feet, but the problem could originate anywhere along the path that leads from the feet to the parietal lobe in the brain. (That’s where all the information from the peripheral nerves is processed.)
Most people with symptoms of peripheral neuropathy have a combination of causes.
- Sciatica (the pinching of the sciatic nerve that leads from the leg to the spine). The brain confuses the pain in the nerve as coming from the nerve endings in the leg.
- Ruptured discs can pinch a nerve.
- Infections, such as shingles, can irritate nerve endings and the skin near the nerve endings
Other factors that have to be taken into account include:
- Autoimmune diseases
- Exposure to poisons
- Inherited disorders
- Trauma or pressure on the nerve
- Vitamin deficiencies (B, E, Niacin)
- Peripheral neuropathy most commonly starts in the longest nerves — the nerves that reach your toes.
- Tingling or “pin pricks”
- The numbness and tingling may spread to your legs and hands
- Burning pain
- Sharp, jabbing or “electric-like” pain
- Extreme sensitivity to touch, even light touch
- Changes to skin, hair or nails
- Clumsiness or lack of coordination
- Muscle weakness or feelings of paralysis
- Intolerance to heat or cold
- Problems with digestion and elimination
- Dizziness or lightheadedness (due to changes in blood pressure)