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How is Peripheral Neuropathy Diagnosed

Updated on January 3, 2014

Most people are unaware of the quickly spreading disease called peripheral neuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy fame has been masked by inadequate research, ineffective treatment options, and insufficient propaganda. This results in many of the peripheral neuropathy sufferers being wrongly diagnosed or belatedly diagnosed.

Peripheral neuropathy awareness needs to be increased to a prompt quick action plan from the sufferers to increase the chances of a complete or partial nerve recovery. If peripheral neuropathy is left untreated for a long period of time, it can become irreversible.

What exactly is peripheral neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathy is tagged to a person when he is suffering from peripheral nerve damage. The peripheral nerves are tasked with the function of carrying information from all the parts of the body to the brain and the spinal cord and vice versa. When these nerves are burdened with this most critical function of the body, they are ensured protection with a protective nerve wall called the myelin sheath. But certain factors tend to intrude this protective covering and cause damage to the delicate nerve fibers and lead to injury. This injury then results in body malfunction and misinterpretation of the signals by the brain. This disease usually causes intense burning pains accompanied by a tingling and numbing sensations in the hands and feet.

Diagnosing Peripheral Neuropathy

When it comes to diagnosing the peripheral disease, the task becomes complicated because this disease is not a single unit which can be dealt with in a traditional way. It is a multifaceted nerve disorder with multiple causes and almost 100 types have been identified by scientists. Reaching to the bottom of the problem by identifying the underlying cause and assessing the extent of nerve damage done can take time, money, and a battery of tests.
Steps involved in the diagnosis of peripheral neuropathy:

Step1: Your doctor will ascertain your family history, your medical history, your response mechanism, your allergies, and other known diseases, age, nutritional, and social habits.

Step2: A physical examination will be made and then you will be asked to give a blood and urine sample to help detect whether your condition is arising from any of the various factors such as diabetes, vitamin and nutritional deficiency, kidney and thyroid function, or any other metabolic related abnormality.

Step3: Neurological exams will be carried out. A muscle strength test will be conducted to evaluate your reaction to muscular actions and to judge whether or not you are suffering from muscle cramps or other muscular disorders.

Step4: You will be asked to pass various tests related to sensory nerves to help assess nerve damage to them. This test will record your response to sensations such as hot, cold, pain, touch, vibration, etc. Any unreceptive behavior on the patient’s part registers advanced neuropathy, which causes numbness.

Step5: Imaging tests will be conducted to conclude the findings
Imaging tests required to diagnose peripheral neuropathy:

CT scan (computed tomography): It will be conducted to get an X-Rayed image of the body and to help determine the root factor. A CT scan can easily detect herniated disks, cists, tumors, and other abnormalities around the body.

MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) test: This test will report whether there is any muscular tissue irregularity or the nerve has been compressed, irritated, or severed.

Electromyography: This test will record electrical activity in your muscular tissue to assess whether the muscles or the nerves are responsible for causing nerve damage.

Nerve conduction tests: This test will differentiate whether the nerve damage is due to axonal nerve damage or myelin nerve damage. It will also assess the nerve’s response levels to small electronic stimuli by placing a probe and measuring the nerve’s response through an electrode.

Nerve biopsy: This is a surgical method and it involves removing a small portion of the nerve to study it further and to carry out a detailed examination to detect abnormalities. It will be done under anesthesia. This means that the patient will be awake but will be numbed to all sensations.

Skin biopsy: This is sometimes used to conduct a small nerve fiber study. It is less risky and is easier to perform than a nerve biopsy.

Can peripheral neuropathy be prevented?
Peripheral neuropathy can be prevented to some extent if certain practices are followed religiously.

  • Smoking and alcoholism needs to be limited to a minimum extent as they increase nerve damage. Vitamin B promotes nerve health and gives the nerves extra strength to fight infections and the general wear and tear of the body. Including them in regular diet not only helps to prevent peripheral neuropathy, but also helps to reduce peripheral neuropathy pain in nerve damage sufferers.
  • Getting ample sleep, eating healthy, and exercising are also disease fighting tips. Integrating fresh fruits and vegetables is a competent way of fighting obesity which is again a leading factor of nerve damage and other coronary diseases. Staying fit is the top technique of keeping diseases away and leading a quality life.

Peripheral Neuropathy


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    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

      I have Myelopathy with neuropathy pain in feet and hands and it is from an old injury. You don't seem to cover that anywhere unless I am missing it. Just wondering if surgery to repair the nerve damage (which I will soon have) will do away with the neuropathy?