Peripheral Nerve Disease

What is Peripheral Nerve Disease?

Peripheral nerve disease or neuropathy refers to conditions caused by damage to the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord. These nerves supply the arms, legs, trunk and pelvis, and are responsible for our sensations of pain and temperature.

Peripheral neuropathy can prevent you from feeling a cut on your hand or foot, and it can cause pain so severe that a light sheet over your feet is extremely uncomfortable. A variety of disorders can affect these nerves including degenerative disease, infections, compression and trauma.

Symptoms of Peripheral Nerve Damage

People with peripheral nerve damage can experience both sensory and motor symptoms. Sensory symptoms include pain, numbness, burning and tingling. These symptoms may radiate down the arms or legs or be felt only in the hands or feet. Motor symptoms include weakness, muscle cramps, twitching and tremors.

Types of Peripheral Nerve Disorders

  • Peripheral nerve injuries – Cuts, stab wounds, crush injuries, occupational and overuse injuries
  • Radiculopathy – A pinched nerve caused by a herniated disc, bone spur or other spine disorder
  • Mononeuropathies – Isolated pain or numbness caused by damage to a single nerve. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common type of mononeuropathy that occurs with overuse of the wrist.
  • Guillain-Barre Syndrome – Acute neuromuscular paralysis causing weakness, tingling and the loss of reflexes
  • Autoimmune conditions that can affect the nerves causing weakness and sensory symptoms
  • Peripheral nerve tumors and diseases such as Lyme disease
  • Diabetic neuropathies – Often causes tingling in the feet

Peripheral Neuropathy Diagnosis and Treatment

People with the symptoms associated with peripheral nerve disorders should first visit a general or musculoskeletal neurologist. These specialists are experts at evaluating your symptoms and identifying the underlying cause of your discomfort.

A variety of tests can be used for diagnosis including blood tests, EMG (to assess the health of nerves), nerve conduction studies and a thorough neurological history and physical. Once your physician has identified the cause, appropriate treatments can be discussed including physical therapy, medications or surgery.

If you are experiencing symptoms of peripheral nerve damage, Banner Health is here for you. If you are in the Phoenix-area, please call (602) 521-3300 to make an appointment with our neurology team. If you are located in other communities, please visit with your physician for more information.