Synonyms: Peripheral neuropathy, Nerve damage
Medical Specialties: Family practice, Internal medicine, Neurology
Neuropathy, also called peripheral neuropathy, describes damage to the peripheral nervous system—a network of nerves that connects the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body. Neuropathy may be acquired from trauma, infection or systemic disease, or may be caused by medications, blood vessel problems or alcoholism. Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease is the most common hereditary neuropathy, but acquired neuropathies are more customary.
There are more than 100 known types of peripheral neuropathy, and they all affect the peripheral nervous system – the network of nerves crucial in connecting the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body. Different types of peripheral nerves carry out different functions, such as alerting the brain when something is hot to the touch (sensory), telling your muscles to move (motor), or controlling breathing and blood pressure or other functions (autonomic). Neuropathies can be painful and debilitating, but very few become fatal on their own.
The symptoms of neuropathy vary depending on the types of nerves involved and the type of neuropathy. For example, symptoms can range from numbness or subtle weakness, to extreme burning pain or paralysis. Symptoms can appear very suddenly in acute neuropathy or develop slowly but constantly in chronic neuropathy. Sometimes a neuropathy is a symptom of yet another disorder.