October 01, 2011

Peripheral neuropathy

Potentially disabling nerve problems

Peripheral neuropathy

Lately, you've noticed an odd sensation in your toes — they feel prickly. Now and then they even feel as if they're burning a bit. At first you wondered if your shoes might be the problem, but the burning sensation seems worse at night, and that's hours after you've removed your shoes.

If you have sensations such as these in your hands or feet, they may be the result of peripheral neuropathy, which is caused by nerve damage. That damage may be related to any number of causes, ranging from a traumatic injury to an underlying health condition, such as diabetes.

Generally, early diagnosis and treatment offer the best chance of controlling symptoms and preventing more peripheral nerve damage.

Live wires disrupted

Your nervous system can be viewed in two broad categories. One is your central nervous system, which is your brain and spinal cord.

The other is the peripheral nervous system, which includes the peripheral nerves. It's these nerves that are affected by peripheral neuropathy, including:

  • Sensory nerves — These allow you to feel sensations such as heat, pain or touch, and contribute to your sense of balance.
  • Motor nerves — These help control your muscle's speed of contraction and their power.
  • Autonomic nerves — These control involuntary body functions, such as heart rate, blood pressure, digestion and bladder...