Neuropathy Symptoms, Signs, And Tests | Heidi Moawad, MD | RxEconsult
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What parts of the body experience symptoms of neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathy: Typically, it is the nerves of the hands, arms, legs and feet that are most disrupted by neuropathy. The limbs of the body are usually referred to as the periphery, and this is why neuropathy is often referred to as peripheral neuropathy. Because a nerve can be damaged anywhere along its whole length, it is usually the longest nerves of the body that are most likely to be damaged by neuropathy. The farthest ends of the nerves are the most likely to be impacted by neuropathy. Therefore, it is the fingers and hands, toes and feet that are usually the first to manifest symptoms of neuropathy. As peripheral neuropathy worsens over time, the symptoms usually spread up along the arms or legs. 

Because legs are physically longer than arms, the nerve damage of neuropathy usually has a greater impact on the legs than on the arms. Thus, it is more common for signs and symptoms of neuropathy to affect the toes and feet than the fingers and hands.

Mononeuropathy and compressive neuropathy: When only one part of the body is affected by neuropathy, the symptoms do not spread to other nerves.

Early symptoms of neuropathy

The most common early symptoms of neuropathy include numbness and tingling, which occur when a nerve is partially damaged. Some other symptoms may include the sensation of pins and needles, deep aching pain, a burning sensation, and oversensitivity to touch and pain as well as ‘phantom’ sensations. 

Interestingly, in addition to these ‘extra’ sensations, neuropathy also results in the loss of normal sensations. Loss of sensation includes difficulty distinguishing between hot and cold temperatures, the inability to feel light touch and altered sensitivity to pain.

Long-term effects of neuropathy

When a nerve is severely damaged, this causes pain, loss of sensation and mild or moderate weakness. If a nerve is completely damaged, then that causes complete loss of sensation and paralysis (complete weakness.)

Some of the consequences of neuropathy include repeated injuries in the toes or fingers due to the diminished pain sensation. These injuries can bruise, bleed, and may even become infected without causing pain, which results in a worsening cycle of injury.

Often, advanced peripheral neuropathy causes loss of balance and difficulty walking, resulting in frequent falling. This is because an individual who cannot accurately feel the position of her feet due to neuropathy may lose balance. 

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