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NINDS Disorders is an index of neurological conditions provided by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. This valuable tool offers detailed descriptions, facts on treatment and prognosis, and patient organization contact information for over 500 identified neurological disorders.

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Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy describes damage to the peripheral nervous system, which transmits information from the brain and spinal cord to every other part of the body.More than 100 types of peripheral neuropathy have been identified, each with its own characteristic set of symptoms, pattern of development, and prognosis. Impaired function and symptoms depend on the type of nerves -- motor, sensory, or autonomic -- that are damaged.  Some people may experience temporary numbness, tingling, and pricking sensations, sensitivity to touch, or muscle weakness. Others may suffer more extreme symptoms, including burning pain (especially at night), muscle wasting, paralysis, or organ or gland dysfunction. Peripheral neuropathy may be either inherited or acquired. Causes of acquired peripheral neuropathy include physical injury (trauma) to a nerve, tumors, toxins, autoimmune responses, nutritional deficiencies, alcoholism, medical procedures, and vascular and metabolic disorders. Acquired peripheral neuropathies are caused by systemic disease, trauma from external agents, or infections or autoimmune disorders affecting nerve tissue. Inherited forms of peripheral neuropathy are caused by inborn mistakes in the genetic code or by new genetic mutations.

Treatment

No medical treatments exist that can cure inherited peripheral neuropathy. However, there are therapies for many other forms.  In general, adopting healthy habits -- such as maintaining optimal weight, avoiding exposure to toxins, following a physician-supervised exercise program, eating a balanced diet, correcting vitamin deficiencies, and limiting or avoiding alcohol consumption -- can reduce the physical and emotional effects of peripheral neuropathy.  Systemic diseases frequently require more complex treatments.

Prognosis

In acute neuropathies, such as Guillain-Barré syndrome, symptoms appear suddenly, progress rapidly, and resolve slowly as damaged nerves heal. In chronic forms, symptoms begin subtly and progress slowly. Some people may have periods of relief followed by relapse. Others may reach a plateau stage where symptoms stay the same for many months or years. Some chronic neuropathies worsen over time, but very few forms prove fatal unless complicated by other diseases. Occasionally the neuropathy is a symptom of another disorder.

Research

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and other institutes of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conduct research related to peripheral neuropathies in laboratories at the NIH and also support additional research through grants to major medical institutions across the country.  Current research projects funded by the NINDS involve investigations of genetic factors associated with hereditary neuropathies, studies of biological mechanisms involved in diabetes-associated neuropathies, and investigations exploring how the immune system contributes to peripheral nerve damage.  Neuropathic pain is a primary target of NINDS-sponsored studies aimed at developing more effective therapies for symptoms of peripheral neuropathy. Some scientists hope to identify substances that will block the brain chemicals that generate pain signals, while others are investigating the pathways by which pain signals reach the brain.

View a list of studies currently seeking patients.

View more studies on this condition.

Read additional information from Medline Plus.

Organizations

American Chronic Pain Association (ACPA)

Provides self-help coping skills and peer support to people with chronic pain. Sponsors local support groups throughout the U.S. and provides assistance in starting and maintaining support groups.

P.O. Box 850
Rocklin, CA 95677-0850
Tel: 916-632-0922 800-533-3231
Fax: 916-652-8190

Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy

A 501(c)(3) public foundation whose mission is to dramatically improve the lives of people living with peripheral neuropathy, to be the catalyst for advancing innovative therapeutic developments and accelerating a cure for painful neuropathies by funding collaborative efforts of leading scientists and physicians, and to develop outreach programs to patients, their families and healthcare professionals.

485 Half Day Road
Suite 200
Buffalo Grove, IL 60089
Tel: 877-883-9942
Fax: 847-883-9960

Neuropathy Association

The Neuropathy Association is the leading national nonprofit organization providing peripheral neuropathy patient support and education, advocating for patients' interests, and promoting critical research. We have 50,000 members and supporters, and a nationwide network of 135 support groups and 12 Neuropathy Centers of Excellence at prominent medical institutions.

110 West 40th Street
Suite 1804
New York, NY 10018
Tel: 888-PN-FACTS (888-763-2287)
Fax: 212-692-0668

National Kidney & Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC)

3 Information Way
Bethesda, MD 20892-3580
Tel: 301-654-4415 800-891-5390

Charcot-Marie-Tooth Association (CMTA)

Provides education and support to persons with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disorders, their families, and the health professionals who treat them.

2700 Chestnut Parkway
Chester, PA 19013-4867
Tel: 610-499-9264 800-606-CMTA (2682)
Fax: 610-499-9267

Muscular Dystrophy Association

Voluntary health agency that fosters neuromuscular disease research and provides patient care funded almost entirely by individual private contributors. MDA addresses the muscular dystrophies, spinal muscular atrophy, ALS, Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, myasthenia gravis, Friedreich's ataxia, metabolic diseases of muscle, and inflammatory diseases of muscle, for a total of more than 40 neuromuscular diseases.

3300 East Sunrise Drive
Tucson, AZ 85718-3208
Tel: 520-529-2000 800-572-1717
Fax: 520-529-5300

American Diabetes Association

Non-profit health organization providing diabetes research, advocacy services, and information, including information on the complications of diabetes, such as diabetic neuropathy.

1701 North Beauregard Street
Alexandria, VA 22311
Tel: 800-DIABETES (342-2383) 703-549-1500

National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC)

1 Information Way
Bethesda, MD 20892-3560
Tel: 301-654-3327 800-860-8747

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