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The Basics of Peripheral Neuropathy

The Basics of Peripheral Neuropathy

By Mark Shelly, DPM
Medical Director

Neurogenx NerveCenter of Encino

What is Peripheral Neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathy (P.N.) is a medical diagnosis that describes damage to nerves and nerve endings, usually in the extremities, such as the feet and hands. P.N. can occur at any age and currently 20 million Americans suffer with the medical condition.

Peripheral neuropathy can result from many different things. The most common causes are:

  • Diabetes
  • Prescription Drugs – most commonly those involved with chemotherapy and HIV treatment
  • Toxins – including pesticides and solvents
  • Cancer
  • Alcohol
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic liver disease
  • Autoimmune disorders – such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus and Sjogrens
  • Trauma
  • Heredity
  • Nearly 30% of P.N. patients are described as idiopathic, which means the cause of neuropathy is unknown.


Older woman in pain

Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy is a progressive problem, which means that it frequently starts with symptoms that are only moderately noticeable, but the symptoms gradually increase and get worse over time. The symptoms can include:

  • Tingling and numbness – especially in the hands or feet
  • Pins and needles sensations
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Burning, stabbing or shooting pain
  • Numbness in the feet or hands
  • A heavy feeling
  • The feeling of wearing tight socks or gloves
  • Or, as many patients have described to me – vague feeling of “something different” or “something stuck on my foot”
  • Cramping
  • Weakness

How is Peripheral Neuropathy Diagnosed?

Diagnosis neuropathy begins with a complete physical exam and usually includes:

  • Neurological assessment
  • Nerve biopsy/skin biopsy to observe the number of nerve endings
  • Electro-diagnostic tests such as a “nerve conduction velocity test” to evaluate how the nerves are functioning

Watch this space for future posts about available treatments as well as discussions of specific types of neuropathy.

Also, I would love to meet you at the 2017 Take Back Your Health Conference – coming up on April 8 & 9, 2017:

As part of the activities for this event, I also invite you to register to win a FREE TREATMENT COURSE: