Characterized by weakness, numbness or pain, peripheral neuropathy is the result of nerve damage that can occur because of injury, infection or disease. When damage to the peripheral nervous system occurs, most people describe stabbing or burning pain, tingling, or numbness, primarily in the extremities. This can become chronic or it can improve with treatment.
One of the most common causes of peripheral neuropathy is diabetes, but other diseases can put people at risk as well, including lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases, kidney disease, liver disease and connective tissue disorders. Anything from trauma to pressure from a cast can also lead to nerve damage. People also have developed nerve damage because of exposure to poisons or medications.
Symptoms can vary, ranging from stabbing pain to extreme sensitivity to gradual numbness. Peripheral neuropathy also can affect one nerve or many nerves, again causing symptoms to vary.
Among the bigger complications of neuropathy is the inability to feel pain, leading patients to develop serious infections and ulcers, or to be burned or to fall. It is key for those at risk to manage their disease or condition to avoid the onset of peripheral neuropathy, and to seek medical attention at the first sign of tingling or weakness.