What Is Peripheral Neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathy is not a single disease. It's a general term for a series of disorders that result from damage to the body's peripheral nervous system.

What are the symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy?

Peripheral Neuropathy usually starts with numbness, prickling or tingling in the toes or fingers. It may spread up to the feet or hands and cause burning, freezing, throbbing and/or shooting pain that is often worse at night.

The pain can be either constant or periodic, but usually the pain is felt equally on both sides of the body-in both hands or in both feet. Some types of peripheral neuropathy develop suddenly, while others progress more slowly over many years.

What Causes Peripheral Neuropathy?

There are many causes of peripheral neuropathy, including diabetes, hereditary disorders, infections, inflammation, auto-immune diseases, protein abnormalities, exposure to toxic chemicals, poor nutrition, kidney failure, chronic alcoholism, and certain medications - especially those used to treat cancer and HIV/AIDS. In some cases, however, even with extensive evaluation, the cause of a person's peripheral neuropathy remains unknown - this is called idiopathic neuropathy.

Where can I learn more?

If you would like more information about symptoms, causes, and treatments for peripheral neuropathy, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke have compiled a Fact Sheet, which you can download here.

You can also get information from the Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy, including links to local support groups and educational meetings.