Peripheral Neuropathy

What is peripheral neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathy is a condition that results from damage to the peripheral nerve system. Peripheral nerve injuries can occur throughout the body and result in a loss of function and chronic pain. Neuropathy can affect any of the three types of peripheral nerves:

  • Sensory nerves: These carry messages from your sensory organs (eyes, nose, etc.) to your brain.
  • Motor nerves: These monitor the conscious movement of your muscles.
  • Autonomic nerves: These regulate the involuntary functions of your body, such as breathing.

Sometimes, neuropathy affects only a single nerve. This is called mononeuropathy and can commonly affect nerves in the:

  • Wrist
  • Elbow
  • Upper arm
  • Knee
  • Leg

Occasionally, two or more isolated nerves in separate areas of the body become damaged, resulting in mononeuritis multiplex neuropathy. Most often, however, multiple peripheral nerves malfunction at the same time, a condition known as polyneuropathy.

Peripheral neuropathy affects almost 25 million people in the U.S. Neuropathies are either inherited at birth or acquired later in life. The most common systemic cause behind peripheral neuropathy is diabetic neuropathy, which can cause chronically high levels of blood glucose and damage nerves.