Peripheral Neuropathy: Causes and Diagnosis

The peripheral nervous system connects the central nervous system to the peripheral body parts. The central nervous system comprises the nerves in your spinal cord and brain. It links these to your:


  • Face and mouth

  • Arms and hands

  • Legs and feet

  • Internal organs


The nerves deliver physical sensations from these peripheral parts of the body as signals to the brain. They also make sure that your internal organs are functioning. They send signals about food digestion and blood circulation to the brain.


What Is Peripheral Neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathy occurs when these peripheral nerves do not work. It could be due to damage from trauma or a health condition. When these nerves do not function, the peripheral body parts may feel numb or experience pain. They may send pain signals to the brain when there is nothing causing pain. They may also not send a sign when something is harming you.


Causes of Peripheral Neuropathy

Various factors and conditions can lead to peripheral neuropathy. Doctors can connect peripheral neuropathy to one or more causes. However, there is one cause that may not show why it is happening. That is:



In rare cases, peripheral neuropathy can be genetic. In this case, it is often idiopathic. It means that doctors do not know why it is happening. The symptoms usually start in your 20s or 30s, although they can also develop in childhood or later in life.


Infections and Autoimmune Disorders

When bacteria or viruses attack the nerve tissue, it can result in peripheral neuropathy. Autoimmune disorders like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis have the same effect. People with HIV/AIDS can also develop peripheral neuropathy.



Physical trauma can cause peripheral neuropathy. The trauma can be in the form of a fall, car accident, or fracture. You can also get neuropathy if you hold still or are inactive for too long. Peripheral neuropathy from trauma can manifest as carpal tunnel syndrome. It happens when there is an increase in pressure on the median nerve. This nerve supplies feeling and movement in the wrist.


Alcohol and Toxins


The toxic effect of alcohol on the nerve tissue can lead to peripheral neuropathy. The same goes for exposure to toxic chemicals like insecticides, glue, and solvents. Heavy metals like mercury and lead can also have this effect.


How Do Doctors Diagnose Peripheral Neuropathy?


It starts with a physical exam and a medical history consultation. After that, the doctor will take you through some tests. These include electromyography and a nerve conduction study.

Electromyography shows how the signals the nerve sends move to your muscles. The doctor places a needle in it and asks you to move it gently. The area may be sore for a few days after that, but it helps the doctor detect if there are any issues with your muscles.


In the nerve conduction study, the doctor places electrodes on your skin. The electrodes conduct tiny pulses of electricity through your nerves to see how they react. It is an uncomfortable test, but it does not hurt afterward.

Peripheral neuropathy depends on the group of nerves it affects. The doctor will try to find the underlying loss so that they can give you the appropriate treatment.


For more information on peripheral neuropathy or to schedule an appointment, contact Pleasant Life Health Center at our office in Charleston, South Carolina by calling (843) 428-7900 today.

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