What is Peripheral Neuropathy?
Peripheral neuropathy is a disease of the nerves. Most of the time, peripheral neuropathy is a gradual process that worsens over months or years. Typically, neuropathy takes weeks, or even months, to diagnose. If you have been told that you have neuropathy, you probably have a few questions.
Neuropathy means disease of the nerves. Nerves have two main jobs in the body; to give instructions for muscles to move and to detect physical sensations such as pain, temperature, touch, texture and vibration. When nerves are diseased or damaged, the result is muscle weakness, sensory disturbance, or both.
Typically, in neuropathy, it is the nerves of the hands, arms, legs and feet that are disrupted by the disease. The limbs of the body are usually referred to as the periphery, and this is why neuropathy is often referred to as peripheral neuropathy. However, there are there are other types of neuropathy.
Neuropathy is caused by injury to the protective layer of fat that covers the nerve or by injury to nerve itself. When a nerve is damaged, this is usually called axonal neuropathy. When the coating around a nerve, called myelin, is damaged, this is called demyelinating neuropathy. For the most part, axonal neuropathy and demyelinating neuropathy cause similar symptoms. But there are tests that can determine whether neuropathy is axonal neuropathy or demyelinating neuropathy, and this is useful information for identifying the cause of the neuropathy.
Next: Causes and Types of Neuropathy