Peripheral neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy refers to a generalized loss of function of the sensory nerves, which allow the brain to respond to sensations such as pain, touch, temperature, and vibration, and the motor nerves, which work with the muscles to control movement. Peripheral neuropathy most often affects the feet, legs, and hands.

Symptoms appear gradually and include:

  • Numbness, burning, and tingling.
  • Loss of feeling.
  • Pain in the affected area.

Conditions that may cause peripheral neuropathy include metabolic disorders, such as diabetes, or inflammatory conditions, such as HIV infection. Other causes include exposure to a toxic substance and reaction to certain medications.

Treatment depends upon the cause. If nerves are not severely damaged, peripheral neuropathy may ease once the underlying condition has been treated.

Last Updated: August 8, 2009

Author: Christine Wendt, R.D., L.D.

Medical Review: Caroline S. Rhoads, MD - Internal Medicine & Matthew I. Kim, MD - Endocrinology & Metabolism

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