Neuropathy is a neurological disorder affecting the peripheral nervous system. The peripheral nervous system sends information from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body and sensory information to the central nervous system. It comprises three types of nerves:
Sensory nerves: Nerves that carry messages from the five senses to the brain.
Motor nerves: Opposite sensory nerves, motor nerves carry messages from the brain to the muscles.
Autonomic nerves: Nerves responsible for involuntary body functions such as breathing, digestion, heartrate, blood pressure, and sweating. Autonomic nerves constantly monitor and respond to external stimuli, stresses, and bodily needs.
Neuropathy can affect one nerve type, a combination of nerves in a limited area, or multiple peripheral nerves. Symptoms occur when there is damage or dysfunction to one or more nerves disrupting the way they are able to communicate with each other and the brain.
Three most common types of neuropathy are:
Peripheral neuropathy: The most common of neuropathies and affects nerves in the hands, feet, legs, and arms.
Autonomic neuropathy: Affects the autonomic nerves which control the Internal organs and body systems.
Diabetic neuropathy: Can involve multiple types of neuropathy that affect different areas of the body as a result from uncontrolled diabetes.
Symptoms can include but are not limited to:
A physical and neurological exam are used in diagnosing neuropathy. A provider will review your symptoms, medical history including any current conditions and medications, family history, social and environmental exposures. During the evaluation your provider will check your reflexes, coordination and balance, evaluate your muscle strength and tone, and the ability to feel different sensations.
At the end of your exam your provider may order various blood tests to evaluate for possible deficiencies, imbalances, or potential underlying conditions. Radiology testing such as an MRI or CT may also be ordered to check for any abnormalities or pinched nerves. An EMG/NCV, skin biopsy, autonomic testing, or genetic testing may also be ordered.