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Causes and Symptoms of Neuropathy

The nervous system is made up of the peripheral and central nervous systems. The central nervous system is made up of the brain and spinal cord. The nerves that are not located inside the brain or spinal cord are a part of the peripheral nervous system. Sometimes cancer or its treatment can affect the neurological system. Damage to the nerves of the peripheral nervous system is referred to as peripheral neuropathy.


Peripheral neuropathy can be caused by:

  • A few chemotherapeutic medications, including cisplatin (Platinol AQ), oxaliplatin (Eloxatin), carboplatin (Paraplatin), docetaxel (Taxotere), paclitaxel (Taxol), vincristine (Oncovin, Vincasar), vinorelbine (Navelbine), and vinblastine (Velban)
  • Some targeted treatment medications, such as thalidomide and bortezomib (Velcade) (Thalomid)
  • Radiation therapy
  • Surgery
  • Tumour pressing against or encroaching upon a peripheral nerve
  • Poor dietary habits
  • The illness known as Paraneoplastic syndrome is defined by signs and symptoms that arise when chemicals released by cancer cells obstruct the normal function of neighboring or distant organs or tissues.

If you have diabetes, use a lot of alcohol, have an autoimmune disease like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, have an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), have renal issues, or are under a lot of stress, you may be at an increased risk of developing peripheral neuropathy.


The specific nerves that are harmed and the severity of that injury determine whether symptoms of peripheral neuropathy are present. The following signs may be present: 

  • Medium to severe pain
  • Numbness
  • Tingling, or burning sensations in the hands or feet
  • Odd sensations like heat or burning when touching cold objects
  • Muscle weakness that prevents you from walking, climbing stairs, buttoning clothing, 
  • Brushing your teeth
  • Muscle cramps
  • Clumsiness or a loss of sense of where your hands and feet are in space (loss of position), especially when attempting to walk or pick up objects
  • Constipation or bloating
  • When your body is in contact with something, such as when you’re wrapped in a blanket or when you’re wearing shoes, there may be pain or discomfort.
  • Changes in sweating
  • Erectile dysfunction or trouble urinating
  • Dizziness, blurred vision, hearing, or difficulty chewing if the nerves in the brain are impacted

Although peripheral nerve injury could be transient, it might take several months or even years for it to disappear. Damage to peripheral nerves can occasionally be irreversible.

Do not wait until your next scheduled appointment to let your doctor or healthcare team know if your symptoms worsen or don’t go away.


Your physician will look for the underlying causes of peripheral neuropathy. Your physician will keep an eye out for any signs of nerve damage before each treatment if you are taking a medication or receiving a treatment that is known to cause peripheral neuropathy.

Your physician may do various tests to determine how well your nerves are functioning, including: • a neurological examination to assess reflexes, muscle strength, and the presence of any numbness; and • nerve conduction studies to determine the extent and location of the nerve damage.

Electromyography (EMG): This test evaluates the electrical transmissions from the nerves to the muscles.

Your physician may order additional tests to examine your hearing, vision, and balance.

Taking care of peripheral neuropathy

Based on the origin of the damage and the symptoms you’re experiencing, your healthcare team can recommend ways to manage peripheral neuropathy. To avoid long-term harm, your doctor may discontinue or reduce the dosage of a medication that is producing peripheral neuropathy. The majority of people’s symptoms gradually improve over time, but sometimes the damage is irreversible.

The following are some suggestions from your medical team for managing peripheral neuropathy:

  • Painkillers such as gabapentin (Neurontin), amitriptyline (Elavil), pregabalin (Lyrica), or other numbing agents that can aid with nerve pain or discomfort.
  • Regular exercise
  • Massage therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • A well-balanced diet full of vitamins and antioxidants and plenty of fluids
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Medications to ease constipation
  • Physiotherapy or occupational therapy to keep muscles strong and improve coordination and balance
  • Regular exercise
  • Massage therapy
  • A well-balanced diet
  • Acupuncture
  • Medications to relieve constipation

Guidelines for staying safe and coping with peripheral neuropathy in everyday life

Learn coping mechanisms if you have peripheral neuropathy to manage the symptoms.

  • If your fingers are numb, use caution when handling sharp, hot, cold, or other potentially harmful objects.
  • Regularly check your feet for cuts or other wounds. Infections and slow wound healing might be risks for those who have neuropathy.
  • If your muscle power or balance is compromised, go up and down stairs gently and hold onto the handrails.
  • Ensure adequate lighting in all the rooms, stairs, and hallways.
  • Get rid of everything that can trip you up or cause you to fall.
  • Make use of aids like grab bars and non-slip bath mats for showers and tubs.
  • To avoid slipping, clean up spills right away.
  • Use sturdy serving utensils.
  • If you’re driving, be sure you can feel the brake and gas pedals.
  • To increase your walking stability, use a cane or walker.
  • In chilly weather, put on socks and gloves.
  • Avoid walking barefoot.
  • Check that the water is not overly hot. With your elbow, check the temperature. To keep the water cooler, turn the faucets to a lower setting or instal a temperature control device on your taps.
  • Stand up gradually to give your body time to acclimatise to your new position.

Guidelines to help you emotionally cope

Anger, despair, and frustration are common emotions that come with living with peripheral neuropathy. While dealing with these emotions requires time and patience, they should improve if you find a solution and as you grow used to these changes.

Sharing your feelings with a loved one may prove to be beneficial. To find out what kinds of counselling or support groups are offered, you can also speak with your medical team.