The peripheral nervous system is the network of nerves that connect the brain and spinal cord to all the other organs. Damage can occur to these nerves that interfere with their ability to function. Not only can it impair conduction to and from the central nervous system, but nerve damage can also lead to many pain syndromes. There are many causes for peripheral neuropathy. The symptoms can come on rapidly or may develop over many years.
Causes of Peripheral Neuropathy
There are numerous causes of peripheral neuropathy. They can be localized, affecting one or several nerves, or generalized, affected the entire peripheral nervous system. The most common causes of peripheral neuropathy are diabetes, alcoholism, vitamin deficiency and some inherited disorders. Other forms of generalized peripheral neuropathy can arise from reactions to drugs or chemicals, including emetine, hexobarbital, chlorbutanol, sulfonamides, phenytoin, nitrofurantoin, heavy metals, carbon monoxide, solvents or industrial poisons. Other causes of peripheral neuropathy include malabsorption disorders, autoimmune reactions, decreased thyroid function, acute porphyria and complications of dialysis. Localized peripheral neuropathy can develop as a complication of nerve compression from tumors or bone growths. Sometimes, nerve canals can become narrowed, such as in the carpal tunnel syndrome. Cancer can invade the nerves or cause indirect peripheral neuropathy through other mechanisms. Disease of the spine, including ruptured discs and spinal stenosis, can compress the peripheral nerves as they originate at the level of the spine.
Signs and Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy usually produces symptoms that appear gradually and slowly progress. Most commonly, they produce tingling and numbness that begins in the hands and feet and progress inwards, towards the body. This type of sensory change is often described for its location, stocking and glove sensory changes. Frequently, the symptoms tend to be symmetric. Weakness of the involved muscles may occur. Pain in an extremity may occur, which is frequently worse at night. Loss of sensation may develop in the hands and feet. This can lead to unexpected injuries and burns, because the bodies natural defense systems are not intact. The involved areas of the skin often become dry and increasingly sensitive to touch. Unusual burning sensations in the area of sensory loss can occur. Some forms of peripheral neuropathy may affect the nerves that supply rectal, urinary and sexual function. This can lead to incontinence and the loss of sexual function, particularly in men. Some of these changes can be confused with diseases that affect the spine and spinal cord. Involvement of the sympathetic nervous system can also lead to problems with orthostatic hypotension. Here, the blood vessels cannot contract in response to changes in position and lowered blood pressure may occur.
Find more information
Medical Content Last Updated on 07/12/2008
The information contained on this site is for the sole purpose of
being informative. This information is not and should not be used or relied upon as medical
advice. Always seek the advice of your physician, nurse
Or other qualified health care provider before you undergo any treatment or
for answers to any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
If you believe you have a medical emergency, please discontinue use
of MyElectronicMD and call 911 now.
Nothing contained on or provided through the service is intended to be or is
to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment.
Your use of this site is subject to certain terms and conditions.