What Is Peripheral Neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathy is a disorder of the peripheral nerves that reside outside of your brain and spinal cord. These are the nerves that relay information between the brain and the rest of the body. Peripheral neuropathy causes weakness, pain, and numbness. When your nerve fibers lose sensation, you feel burning, stabbing, or tingling pain. 

Peripheral neuropathy affects circulation, digestion, and urination, among other functions. It slows down blood flow and makes you lose appetite. In many cases, the symptoms improve with treatment. Some treatments can regenerate the nerves and restore sensation.


Types of Peripheral Neuropathy


Peripheral neuropathy can affect either a single peripheral nerve or many of them. Damage to multiple peripheral nerves accounts for most peripheral neuropathy cases. Generally, the types are in three categories. These are:


Sensory Neuropathy


It affects the sensory nerves. These are the nerves in the epidermis that allow touch reception and thermal and pain sensation. In cases where the cause is diabetes, sensation loss can lead to infection, leg and foot ulcers, and gangrene. When peripheral neuropathy affects these sensory nerves, you will experience:

  • Hypersensitivity that makes you feel as if you’re on pins and needles.
  • Loss of ability to sense temperature changes.
  • Decrease in the sensation of vibration and touch.
  • An increase in pain or losing the ability to feel pain.
  • Burning, stabbing, or shooting pains may be worse at night.
  • Difficulty with coordination and balance.

Motor Neuropathy


Motor nerves connect to muscles throughout the body. The brain controls these muscles consciously. The condition makes it hard for these nerves to send the electric signals that move the body. It makes the hands, arms, legs, and feet feel weak. They may also twitch and cramp. 

People with motor neuropathy experience shakiness due to weakness. It makes small movements like buttoning a shirt hard to perform. The muscles waste and shrink, making it harder to move around.


Autonomic Neuropathy

Autonomic nerves are the component of the peripheral nervous system that control everyday activities. The brain controls them involuntarily. They include blood pressure, respiration, heart rate, sexual arousal, and digestion. When peripheral neuropathy affects these nerves, it causes:

  • Heat intolerance.
  • Problems with sweating.
  • Problems with blood pressure.
  • Problems with bladder and bowel control.
  • Difficulty swallowing.



The cause of many types of neuropathy is unknown. However, several conditions can trigger the problem. These include autoimmune diseases, diabetes, infections, hereditary disorders, and injuries.

Diabetes is the most common cause of peripheral neuropathy. Nearly half of those with diabetes develop peripheral neuropathy. Growths or tumors can also lead to peripheral neuropathy. Whether they are cancerous or benign, they can grow and press on nerves. This may cause stress, resulting in a sensory disorder.



Different complications arise because of peripheral neuropathy. They include infections, burns, injuries, and falls. The lack of sensation causes you to get injuries without knowing. Injuries may get infections leading to gangrene and even loss of limbs if you are not careful.

Manage any medical conditions that may put you at risk. Exercise, be active, and eat food rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein.


For more information on peripheral neuropathy, visit the Pain and Laser Centers of North Carolina at our office in Greensboro, North Carolina. You can call (336) 815-5800 today to schedule an appointment.

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