Peripheral neuropathy is a term that refers to any condition affecting parts of your nervous system outside of the brain and spinal cord. These conditions can cause a wide array of symptoms, such as:
  • Muscle weakness, paralysis, atrophy, or cramping
  • Sensory problems such as tingling, numbness, pain, and a lack of coordination
  • Disruption of autonomic functions, such as blood pressure changes, sweating, sexual activity, and bowel or bladder functions
There are two main types of peripheral neuropathy: demyelinating neuropathy and axonal degeneration. Axonal degeneration involves the deterioration of the axon, the part of a neuron responsible for transmitting electrical signals to and from other neurons. This is the most common type of peripheral neuropathy and often affects the hands and feet; the part of your nervous system that coordinates these parts of your body is furthest from your spinal cord, requiring longer axons in your neurons.
Demyelinating neuropathy is similar to multiple sclerosis (MS), another neurological condition, in that it involves deterioration of the myelin sheath that covers your axons and facilitates the transportation of electrical signals throughout your nervous system. When myelin is damaged or deteriorates, these electrical signals can become slower or disrupted.

How is peripheral neuropathy diagnosed?

Diagnosing peripheral neuropathy involves several steps, including:

  • A review of your medical history and any symptoms you’ve been experiencing
  • Physical and neurological tests to gauge your reflexes, sensory responses, coordination, and muscle weakness
  • Laboratory tests, such as blood tests, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and genetic testing

Your doctor may also order other specialized tests to determine whether you may have peripheral neuropathy. These may include:

  • An electromyogram, which measures electrical activity during muscle movements
  • A nerve ultrasound, which generates images of peripheral nerves and muscles
  • A nerve biopsy, which involves removing a small piece of an affected nerve for examination

How is peripheral neuropathy treated?

Treatment for peripheral neuropathy can include physical therapy, medications, surgery, medical devices and equipment, and/or treatments from pain specialists to help manage symptoms. The most effective approach for you will depend in large part on the underlying cause of your symptoms.
Peripheral neuropathy can lead to disability if left untreated, but prompt care from a specialist can help. The skilled neurology team at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center can provide accurate, high-quality diagnostic care and develop a treatment plan that reduces pain and the interference of symptoms in your daily activities. To schedule an appointment with a NYC peripheral neuropathy specialist, please email