Peripheral neuropathy

Alternative Names

Peripheral neuritis; Neuropathy – peripheral; Neuritis – peripheral

Definition of Peripheral neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy is a problem with the nerves that carry information to and from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body. This can produce pain, loss of sensation, and an inability to control muscles.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

One set of peripheral nerves relays information from your central nervous system to muscles and other organs. A second set relays information from your skin, joints, and other organs back to your central nervous system.


The symptoms depend on which type of nerve is affected. The three main types of nerves are:

Signs and tests

A detailed history will help your health care provider determine the cause of the neuropathy. A brain and nervous system (neurological) exam may reveal problems with movement, sensation, or organ function. You may also have changes in reflexes and muscle mass.


Treatment involves:

Expectations (prognosis)

The outcome depends on the cause of peripheral neuropathy. In cases where a medical condition can be found and treated, the outlook may be excellent. However, in severe neuropathy, nerve damage can be permanent, even if the cause is treated.


David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Daniel B. Hoch, PhD, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 8/27/2010

Nervous system
Central nervous system

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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