Peripheral neuropathy is a general term that means nerve damage in the peripheral nervous system. This damage may occur due to some sort of trauma to the nerves or as a result of any of several disease processes. Peripheral neuropathy may occur in any one of several varieties, but the most common type, and the type most people think of when the name is mentioned is symmetric polyneuropathy which generally effects the feet and legs and is commonly seen in diabetic patients. The reason this type of peripheral neuropathy is so common is that while heart disease and hypertension rates are currently on the decline, the number of people who are diagnosed with diabetes each year continues to climb steadily each year.
This type of peripheral neuropathy is so common in diabetics because even though the patient may be quite diligent in maintaining healthy blood glucose the blood glucose levels still commonly spike to nerve damaging levels. This type of peripheral neuropathy may appear after years of otherwise uneventful diabetes treatment and only affect the patient later in life.
Common symptoms of peripheral neuropathy can be severe or so benign as to be overlooked in the beginning. It is quite common for the first symptoms to be a tingling or slight burning sensation which may be overlooked or played off as a symptom of some other disease. If untreated the disease will progress to the point that the patient will experience a loss of the ability to feel textures, pain, or temperature differences, this may even progress to the point that motor function becomes quite clumsy. Unfortunately when the inability to feel pain is coupled with the decreased healing ability of the diabetic a recipe for disaster has been written.
Though the disease is becoming more and more common, there still remains no cure, though some forms of peripheral neuropathy treatment are highly effective. Perhaps the best treatment is a simple knowledge of the disease, so if you or someone you know is a diabetic you should remember that there is a much increased risk of developing peripheral neuropathy.