Peripheral Neuropathy symptoms usually start with numbness, prickling or tingling in the toes or fingers. It may spread up to the feet or hands and cause burning, freezing, throbbing and/or shooting pain that is often worse at night.
The pain can be either constant or periodic, but usually the pain is felt equally on both sides of the body—in both hands or in both feet. Some types of peripheral neuropathy develop suddenly, while others progress more slowly over many years.
The symptoms of peripheral neuropathy often include:
- A sensation of wearing an invisible “glove” or “sock”
- Burning sensation or freezing pain
- Sharp, jabbing, shooting, or electric-like pain
- Extreme sensitivity to touch
- Difficulty sleeping because of feet and leg pain
- Loss of balance and coordination
- Muscle weakness
- Muscle cramping/twitching
- Difficulty walking or moving the arms
- Unusual sweating
- Abnormalities in blood pressure or pulse
Symptoms such as experiencing weakness or not being able to hold something, not knowing where your feet are, and experiencing pain that feels as if it is stabbing or burning in your limbs, can be common signs and symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.
The symptoms of peripheral neuropathy may depend on the kind of peripheral nerves that have been damaged. There are three types of peripheral nerves: motor, sensory and autonomic. Some neuropathies affect all three types of nerves, while others involve only one or two.
The majority of people, however, suffer from polyneuropathy, an umbrella term for damage involving many nerves at the same time.
Three types of peripheral nerves:
Motor nerves send impulses from the brain and spinal cord to all of the muscles in the body. This permits people to do activities like walking, catching a baseball, or moving the fingers to pick something up. Motor nerve damage can lead to muscle weakness, difficulty walking or moving the arms, cramps and spasms.
Sensory nerves send messages in the other direction—from the muscles back to the spinal cord and the brain. Special sensors in the skin and deep inside the body help people identify if an object is sharp, rough, or smooth; if it’s hot or cold; or if it’s standing still or in motion. Sensory nerve damage often results in tingling, numbness, pain, and extreme sensitivity to touch.
Autonomic nerves control involuntary or semi-voluntary functions, such as heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, and sweating. When the autonomic nerves are damaged, a person’s heart may beat faster or slower. They may get dizzy when standing up; sweat excessively; or have difficulty sweating at all. In addition, autonomic nerve damage may result in difficulty swallowing, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, problems with urination, abnormal pupil size, and sexual dysfunction.