What Is Neuropathy, and What Are the Common Symptoms?

Neuropathy by AltaPain Physicians in Bountiful

Neuropathy might sound like a complex medical term, but it’s a condition that affects millions of people. Neuropathy is about nerve damage. It can happen anywhere in your body but is most commonly found in the hands and feet. People with neuropathy often struggle with symptoms like numbness, tingling, and pain that can range from mild to severe. These symptoms can turn everyday activities into challenging tasks.

Understanding neuropathy can help not just those who have it, but anyone who wants to stay informed about health.

What is Neuropathy?

Neuropathy defines a scope of conditions involving peripheral nerve damage. These are the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord. Unlike problems in the central nervous system, neuropathy affects how signals are transmitted between the body and the brain. This damage to nerve fibers can result in diverse symptoms, depending on which nerves are affected.

The types of neuropathy are broadly classified based on the number and type of nerves affected. These include:

  • Peripheral Neuropathy: The most common type, it typically affects the nerves in the feet and hands. It can result in numbness, tingling, and pain in these areas, sometimes leading to weakness.
  • Autonomic Neuropathy: This type impacts the autonomic nervous system, which controls involuntary body functions like heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, and bladder function. Symptoms can be diverse, ranging from digestive issues to changes in blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Proximal Neuropathy: Also known as diabetic amyotrophy, this type usually affects nerves in the thighs, hips, buttocks, or legs. It’s more common in older adults and those with diabetes, leading to pain and weakness in the affected areas.
  • Focal Neuropathy: This occurs when there’s damage to a single nerve or group of nerves, causing pain and weakness in a specific area. It can affect any nerve in the body, including those that control sight and hearing.

Each type of neuropathy has its own set of symptoms and potential causes. Understanding these differences is necessary for diagnosing and treating the condition effectively. Neuropathy can stem from a variety of reasons, including diabetes, infections, injuries, and some medications, making it a state with many faces but a common underlying theme: nerve damage.

Causes of Neuropathy

Neuropathy isn’t just a random occurrence; it often has specific triggers. 

  • Numbness and Tingling: Many first notice something’s off when they feel numbness or tingling, especially in their hands and feet. It’s like that feeling when your leg “falls asleep,” but it doesn’t quite wake up.
  • Pain: This isn’t your ordinary pain. It can be sharp, stabbing, or even feel like an electric shock. For some, it’s a constant dull ache. This kind of pain can be disruptive, turning everyday tasks into challenges.
  • Weakness: Imagine going to pick up something you’ve lifted a hundred times before, but this time, your muscles don’t respond. That’s the kind of weakness we’re discussing — it can make you feel like your muscles are on a break.
  • Sensitivity to Touch: For some, even a light touch can feel unbearable, like a sudden jolt of pain from something as simple as a bedsheet brushing against the skin.
  • Muscle and Coordination Problems: This is where things get tricky. You might stumble, or your hands might not cooperate when typing or buttoning a shirt. It’s like the signals between your brain and muscles are getting lost.
  • Autonomic Symptoms: These are the slippery ones because they affect the things your body does automatically. We’re talking about changes in blood pressure, heart rate, digestion, and even bladder or bowel function. It’s like your body’s autopilot is malfunctioning.

Diagnosis of Neuropathy

These steps are not just about confirming the presence of neuropathy but also uncovering the ‘why’ behind it.

1. Initial Consultation and Medical History Review

  • What Happens: You’ll chat with your doctor about your symptoms and medical history. This is like giving a complete account of the ‘events’ leading up to your condition.
  • Why It’s Important: It helps to identify any potential causes or contributing factors of neuropathy, such as lifestyle, past injuries, or family history.

2. Physical Examination

  • What Happens: Your doctor conducts a hands-on examination. This includes testing your sensation, muscle strength, and reflexes.
  • Why It’s Important: The direct observation part is where the doctor looks for physical signs of nerve damage.

3. Nerve Function Tests

  • What Happens: Tests like electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction studies are done.
  • Why It’s Important: These tests are like the nerve’s electrical system check-up, measuring the electrical activity in muscles and the speed of nerve signal transmission.

4. Blood Tests

  • What Happens: Blood samples are taken to test for conditions like diabetes, vitamin deficiencies, and autoimmune diseases.
  • Why It’s Important: These tests reveal any underlying conditions causing the neuropathy.

5. Imaging Tests (if needed)

  • What Happens: MRI or CT scans can view the body’s internal structures.
  • Why It’s Important: These images help rule out other causes for the symptoms, such as spinal issues or tumors.

6. Nerve Biopsy (in some instances)

  • What Happens: A small sample of nerve tissue is taken for closer examination.
  • Why It’s Important: Although more invasive, this can provide critical information on the type of nerve damage and its extent.

Treatment and Management

Treating and managing neuropathy is about finding the right combination of therapies and lifestyle adjustments to alleviate symptoms and address the underlying cause. The approach is often multifaceted and personalized, considering the type of neuropathy and its cause.


  • Pain Relievers: Over-the-counter pain medications might be recommended for mild symptoms, while more severe pain might require prescription-strength drugs.
  • Anti-seizure Medications: Odd as it may sound, medications typically used for epilepsy can be effective in treating nerve pain.
  • Topical Treatments: Creams and patches can provide relief directly at the site of pain.


  • Physical Therapy: Strengthening and stretching exercises can help combat muscle weakness and improve movement.
  • Occupational Therapy: This can help you adapt to any limitations and maintain your independence in daily activities.
  • Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS): This therapy uses a gentle electric current to relieve pain.

Lifestyle and Home Remedies

  • Healthy Eating: A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein can help control blood sugar levels, which is especially important in diabetic neuropathy.
  • Regular Exercise: This improves blood flow to the nerves in the legs and arms and can reduce pain.
  • Quitting Smoking and Limiting Alcohol: Both smoking and heavy drinking can worsen neuropathy symptoms.
  • Foot Care: For those with neuropathy in the feet, proper foot care, including regular inspection, wearing comfortable shoes, and avoiding injury, is vital.


If you’re grappling with the challenges of neuropathy and seeking effective relief, Alta Pain Physicians is here to help. Their team of experts specializes in pain management and offers a comprehensive approach tailored to your specific needs. Don’t let neuropathy control your life. Call Alta Pain Physicians today to learn more about how they can assist you in handling your symptoms and enhancing your quality of life. Take the first step towards a more comfortable, pain-free future. Reach out to Alta Pain Physicians and embark on your journey to better nerve health.


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