Peripheral neuropathy is a condition that affects the nerves outside of the brain or spinal cord. It can cause changes to sensation, movement and involuntary functions. Pressure on the nerves can cause peripheral neuropathy, as can certain conditions such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, an inherited disorder. MedlinePlus, a website of the National Institutes of Health, points out that some types of peripheral neuropathy do not have a cure. The nerve damage from this condition can have lasting effects.
Peripheral neuropathy affects three types of nerves: sensory, motor and autonomic. The sensory nerves relay information to the brain such as a change in temperature. When peripheral neuropathy damages the sensory nerves, patients can experience nerve pain, burning sensations or tingling. Some patients may have numbness that starts in the feet and moves up in the body. MayoClinic.com explains that with the numbness, patients can have reduced feeling in their limbs, which can affect their ability to sense changes. Problems can arise, such as in the case of a peripheral neuropathy patient who cannot feel pain in his feet and therefore does not notice a foot injury. If the injury goes untreated, an infection can develop.
Since peripheral neuropathy can affect the motor nerves, patients may have a partial or total loss of movement and muscle control. For example, patients may experience paralysis of certain parts of the body such as the arms or legs. MedlinePlus points out that patients may fall from tripping over themselves. Peripheral neuropathy can cause muscle atrophy, in which patients lose some muscle tissue. Patients may have a lack of muscle control and dexterity, which can affect their ability to do tasks that require fine movements, such as writing with a pen. Damage to the autonomic nerves, which control the involuntary functions, can also impair movement. For example, patients can have dizziness when they stand up.
Peripheral neuropathy patients may lose weight as a result of the autonomic nerve damage symptoms. MedlinePlus points out that peripheral neuropathy patients can lose more than 5 percent of their body weight. They may have nausea and vomiting after meals. The autonomic symptoms of peripheral neuropathy cause patients to feel full after eating a small amount of food, which can also affect weight. Motor nerve damage in the throat can affect patients' ability to swallow, which may cause them to eat less.
MedlinePlus explains that the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy can cause patients to have low self-esteem. For example, male peripheral neuropathy patients may feel self-conscious about impotency problems. Urinary incontinence, or urine leakage, is another embarrassing problem related to peripheral neuropathy that can affect self-esteem.