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About Peripheral Neuropathy

While peripheral neuropathy can affect the peripheral nerves anywhere in the body, the hands and feet are most often affected. The peripheral nerves are responsible for sending messages throughout the body that originate in the central nervous system.

The Importance of Treatment

If you suspect that you may have peripheral neuropathy, we heavily encourage you to talk to your doctor. Proper management of this condition can help you take much better care of the affected areas.

What Causes Peripheral Neuropathy?

While there’s not a single cause of peripheral neuropathy, several conditions or factors might play a role. The following are possible peripheral neuropathy causes:

  • Toxin exposure
  • Diabetes
  • Alcoholism
  • Bone marrow disorders
  • Infections, including bacterial and viral types
  • Pressure on the peripheral nerves or trauma
  • Vitamin deficiencies (especially B vitamins, niacin, and vitamin E)
  • Medications (such as those used for chemotherapy)
  • Inherited disorders (such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease)
  • Tumors that press on the peripheral nerves or develop on these nerves
  • Autoimmune diseases (such as lupus, Sjogren’s syndrome, or rheumatoid arthritis)
  • Certain other health issues (such as liver disease, hypothyroidism, kidney disease, or connective tissue disorders)
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Risk Factors of Peripheral Neuropathy

In addition to the possible causes, there are also risk factors that can increase a person’s chances of developing peripheral neuropathy. These factors include a family history of the condition and repetitive motion. In some cases, the cause of this condition is not identified. In these instances, the peripheral neuropathy is considered idiopathic.


The different nerves that are part of the peripheral nervous system all have their own functions. The symptoms that a patient experiences depends on which nerves are damaged. The following symptoms are possible:

  • Falling and reduced coordination
  • Numbness that comes on gradually
  • Jabbing, freezing, burning, sharp, or throbbing pain
  • Extreme sensitivity to touch
  • The tingling and numbness can start in the foot and move up the leg
  • If motor nerves are affected, people may experience muscle paralysis or weakness


When peripheral neuropathy isn’t maintained, there’s the risk for complications. This includes:

  • Infection: This condition can reduce sensation in the feet which can result in minor injuries not being noticed until they become infected
  • Skin trauma or burns: Numbness increases the risk of these issues on the feet and ankles
  • Falls: Sensation loss and weakness can make it harder to maintain proper balance when walking
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Since medical conditions and certain medications are a common cause of peripheral neuropathy, it’s typical to begin the diagnostic process with a medical history. This will allow the doctor to see if the patient has a condition that’s associated with this disorder. After this, the doctor might perform a physical examination, paying close attention to the feet or other area affected by this condition.

A neurological exam will allow your doctor to better assess the patient’s nerve functioning. This testing may include evaluating the patient’s muscle tone and strength, coordination, tendon reflexes, posture, and ability to detect sensations. Other tests might include:

  • Imaging tests
  • Nerve biopsy
  • Blood testing
  • Nerve function testing
  • Skin biopsy
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Treatment for the Underlying Cause of Peripheral Neuropathy

It’s important that the underlying condition be managed to reduce the risk of peripheral neuropathy becoming worse. To help alleviate a patient’s symptoms, the following medications might be recommended:

  • Antiseizure medications to help alleviate pain (examples: pregabalin and gabapentin)
  • Antidepressants to help reduce a person’s pain (examples: tricyclic antidepressants such as doxepin, amitriptyline and nortriptyline)
  • Pain relievers (over-the-counter options such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen)
  • Topical treatments to reduce pain (such as capsaicin cream)

Direct Treatment for Peripheral Neuropathy

There are certain treatments that might be considered for people with peripheral neuropathy. These may include intravenous immune globulin and plasma exchange; transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation; physical therapy, or surgery.

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Preventing Peripheral Neuropathy

The best way to reduce the risk of developing peripheral neuropathy is to make sure that your general health is maintained. For example, if you have diabetes, maintaining good blood sugar control can reduce your risk. Other preventative measures include: 

  • Regular exercise
  • Getting enough vitamin B12 to help protect nerve health
  • Eating a diet that incorporates plenty of vegetables, leans proteins, fruits, and whole grains
  • Avoiding things that can contribute to nerve damage, such as sitting in cramped positions, smoking, repetitive motions, exposure to toxic chemicals, and drinking too much alcohol

Peripheral Neuropathy Treatment at Foot & Ankle Specialty Group

Foot & Ankle Specialty Group is a podiatry clinic that has been proudly serving the Rancho Santa Margarita and Newport Beach community since 2001. We provide patients with an outstanding experience, from their first consultation to their last follow-up.

Founder Dr. Salma Aziz spends plenty of time with her patients in order to develop the ideal treatment plan for their unique needs, and with the additions of Dr. Petrina Yokay and Dr. Jessica Arneson and strengths and specialties that they bring to the team, we are now able to offer patients even more.

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