What is Neuropathy? Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Complications

Neuropathy refers to nerves that do not work properly. It describes damage and dysfunction of the nerves that control the human body’s sensory and motor functions. In other words, the nerves that control what we feel and the movement of muscles in the body.

Neuropathy can affect our legs, feet, arms, hands, in fact, any part of the body. It is the result of damage to the nerves located outside of the spinal cord and brain, i.e., the peripheral nerves. Hence, we also call it peripheral neuropathy.

Causes of neuropathy

There are many possible causes of neuropathy, such as:

  • Diabetes

People with diabetes commonly have high blood sugar levels, which can damage the nerves in the body. According to a study that was published in Endocrine and Metabolic Science, 40.3% of people with diabetes have peripheral neuropathy. The prevalence is higher with type 2 diabetes (42.2%) than type 1 (29.1%).

  • Autoimmune disorders

People with rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome, and lupus are more likely to have nerve damage or dysfunction than the rest of the population.

  • Infections

HIV/AIDS, Lyme disease, shingles, and some other infections can damage nerves.

  • Injuries

Pinched nerves and carpal tunnel syndrome, i.e., injuries to nerves.

  • Vitamin deficiencies

A vitamin B12 deficiency, and also a lack of vitamins B6 and E.

Signs and symptoms of neuropathy

If the patient and other people can sense or detect it, it is a sign. If only the patient feels it or is aware of it, it is a symptom. A skin rash is a sign, while a headache is a symptom.

Neuropathy signs and symptoms vary, depending on which and what type of nerve is affected. Here is a list of the most common ones:

  • Tingling in the hands, feet, arms, and legs. Often numbness too.
  • Shooting or burning pains.
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Loss of balance.
  • Loss of coordination.
  • Sensitivity to touch.


Doctors typically perform a physical examination and order some tests, such as nerve conduction studies, blood tests to check for vitamin deficiencies, and electromyography.

Neuropathy - image for article

WikiHow image adapted by medicalvocab.com

Treatment of neuropathy

What treatment the doctor recommends depends on the underlying cause of the condition. Here are some of the most common treatment options for neuropathy;


Anti-inflammatory drugs and painkillers can help patients manage their symptoms. Some antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications have been found to help reduce symptoms of pain, burning, and numbness.

Physical therapy

Physical therapy (British: physiotherapy) can help with balance, coordination, and strengthening affected muscles.

  • Surgery

If there is nerve compression, the doctor may recommend surgery. This may also be the case with carpal tunnel syndrome.

  • Lifestyle changes

Maintaining a healthy bodyweight, exercising regularly, and quitting smoking may help patients better manage their symptoms.


  • Injuries

Balance and coordination problems can lead to falls, and possibly nasty injuries.

  • Infections

When there is a loss of sensation in a part of your body, it becomes more prone to infections.

  • Disability

In severe cases, the patient may find it impossible to live a normal life because their condition effectively leaves them disabled. Alternatively, if left untreated, the condition can get progressively worse until the patient loses all sensation in the affected area, leading to disability.

Prevention of neuropathy

Getting vaccinated to prevent infections, making sure your vitamin intake is adequate, maintaining good control of blood sugar levels if you have diabetes, and not smoking can significantly help prevent your peripheral nerves from becoming damaged or further damaged.

If you have persistent numbness and tingling (pins and needles), or pain in your limbs, hands, or feet, talk to your doctor.

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