Peripheral neuropathy - Symptoms 

Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy 

Depending on the cause of the peripheral neuropathy, symptoms may develop slowly or quickly.

The specific symptoms of peripheral neuropathy vary according to the type of peripheral neuropathy you have. There are three main types:

  • sensory neuropathy affects the nerves that carry messages of touch, temperature, pain and other sensations to the brain
  • motor neuropathy affects the nerves that control movement
  • autonomic neuropathy affects the nerves that control involuntary bodily processes, such as digestion and your heartbeat

In many cases, someone with peripheral neuropathy may have more than one of these types of neuropathy at the same time.

In particular, a combination of sensory and motor neuropathy is common. This is called sensorimotor polyneuropathy.

The symptoms of the main types of peripheral neuropathy are described below.

Sensory neuropathy

Symptoms of sensory neuropathy can include:

  • prickling and tingling sensation in the affected body part (pins and needles)
  • numbness and a reduced ability to feel pain or changes in temperature, particularly in your feet
  • a burning or sharp pain, usually in the feet and legs
  • feeling pain from something that should not be painful at all, such as a very light touch (allodynia)
  • loss of balance or co-ordination

Motor neuropathy

Symptoms of motor neuropathy can include:

  • twitching and muscle cramps
  • muscle weakness or paralysis affecting one or more muscles
  • thinning (wasting) of muscles
  • foot drop (difficulty lifting up the front part of your foot and toes, particularly noticeable when walking)

Autonomic neuropathy

Damage to the autonomic nerves can result in a wide range of symptoms depending on where in the body the damage occurs.

Symptoms of autonomic neuropathy can include:

Mononeuropathy

Depending on the specific nerve affected, symptoms of mononeuropathy can include:

  • altered sensation or weakness in the fingers
  • double vision or other problems with focusing your eyes, sometimes with eye pain
  • weakness of one side of your face (Bell's palsy)
  • foot or shin pain, weakness or altered sensation

The most common type of mononeuropathy is carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). The carpal tunnel is a small tunnel in your wrist. In CTS, the median nerve becomes compressed where it passes through this tunnel. This may cause tingling, pain or numbness in the fingers.

When to seek medical advice

Generally, the sooner peripheral neuropathy is diagnosed, the better the chance of limiting the damage. It is therefore important to remain alert for the early signs and symptoms of peripheral neuropathy, such as:

  • pain, tingling or loss of sensation in the feet
  • loss of balance
  • a cut or ulcer on your foot that is not getting better
  • changes in your normal bowel and bladder functions, such as persistent diarrhoea or constipation
  • faintness on standing up

See your GP if you experience the above signs and symptoms.

It is also recommended that people with risk factors for peripheral neuropathy, such as diabetes, have regular check-ups.

Read about the causes of peripheral neuropathy for more information.

Page last reviewed: 02/07/2014

Next review due: 02/07/2016

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Comments

The 8 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Pookyface said on 23 February 2014

In addition to many of the symptoms described, my legs give way without warning, so I frequently fall and cause additional injury by colliding with nearby objects.
My legs intermittently refusing to work when I'm seated or walking, I have no option but wait until what passes for normal service resumes. When this first started it lasted thirty to forty minutes, now it lasts close to three hours.
This condition started in my big toe, and now is all through me, feet, legs, back, shoulders, neck, arms and hands, the latter are freezing cold, feel numb, the tips of my fingers have a stinging nettle sensation. I experience severe pain throughout my body 24/7 pain killers have no effect. I have no feeling in my feet and my balance is effected, I need to focus on a fixed object to remain vertical. In a black out situation I would fall and not be aware I was going down.
I was first diagnosed in 1998 and it has worsened all down the years. Walking is agony and high risk made worse by heart related condition, breathlessness, severe dizziness which can lead to passing out on occasion. I am very tall and heavy which contributes greatly to my problems, I feel the use of a wheelchair is not far off although I dread the thought. I too use multivitamins but they make no difference to the various types of neuropathy that afflict me, I feel this condition is for life.

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Woodlandia said on 19 November 2013

@lesbud1
Thanks. As I said I am supplementing well with all the vitamins and nutrients to help with the nerve damage. No deficiency of B12 at all. It's related to the General Anaesthetic/ME/Virus/stress/anxiety.

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mellymoo01 said on 17 June 2013

does this include swelling of the face, hands, ankles, legs and pains in the teeth and disturbed sleep because i already have all of these symptons, but my skin gets a faint rash and i cant wash often because of the burning on my hands and cant feel the warmth on my feet.

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lesbud1 said on 01 May 2013

woodlandia have you looked on the b12d.org website for information on b12 deficiency?

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wiggsy45 said on 22 February 2013

I have 5 collapsed disc from l2 down to s1,I have a lot of the problems with tingling in my feet and hands weakness in my legs Have been walking round on my hands and feet not been sleeping because of the pills I' taking !!!! but they don't work been like this now for 7 months.

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Woodlandia said on 06 November 2011

I have autonomic neuropathy from toes to throat. It's affected every part of my body including my heart, liver, bowel, bladder and BP. I'm on gabapentin and nortriptyline. I cannot take codeine or morphine. I am in constant burning pain all over...my hands feet and limbs are very painful. I get the feeling of a corset around my middle...very tight and sore. The drugs help block some of the pain, but not all. I take supplements to help keep the nerves as healthy as possible. I don't get them on the NHS! I'm fighting for my welfare benefits at present which is making the neuropathy worse. My condition followed years of ME/CFS and anxiety and was triggered by surgery and an infection. I try and keep as cheerful as I can.

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sweetpea70 said on 06 January 2010

I was a longterm diabetic (25 years) until my kidney/pancreas transplant in 2007. In the last year, I have suffered with pain on walking and have to use a stick when the pain gets too much. I have ify balance at the best of times and pain in my hands and arms too.I have been checked by vascular, muscular and skeletal specialists to no avail. The last resort is a neurologist as they think it may be peripheral neuropathy but why now when im no longer diabetic (until my transplant packs in that is)

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Harvey9 said on 02 January 2010

Please could you add more information on autonomic neuropathy. My son is a long term diabetic and has autonomic and peripherel neuropathy. His senses are very acute and he feels the pain even from clothes touching his skin. He cannot stand the pain from walking and is on many drugs to alieviate this but to no avail.

Regards,

Christine Smith

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