Symptoms vary according to the type of peripheral neuropathy and may develop quickly or slowly.
The main types of peripheral neuropathy include:
- sensory neuropathy – damage to the nerves that carry messages of touch, temperature, pain and other sensations to the brain
- motor neuropathy – damage to the nerves that control movement
- autonomic neuropathy – damage to the nerves that control involuntary bodily processes, such as digestion, bladder function and control of blood pressure
- mononeuropathy – damage to a single nerve outside of the central nervous system
In many cases, someone with peripheral neuropathy may have more than one of these types of peripheral neuropathy at the same time.
A combination of sensory and motor neuropathy is particularly common (sensorimotor polyneuropathy).
Symptoms of sensory neuropathy can include:
- pins and needles in the affected body part
- numbness and less ability to feel pain or changes in temperature, particularly in your feet
- a burning or sharp pain, usually in the feet
- feeling pain from something that should not be painful at all, such as a very light touch
- loss of balance or co-ordination caused by less ability to tell the position of the feet or hands
Symptoms of motor neuropathy can include:
- twitching and muscle cramps
- muscle weakness or paralysis affecting one or more muscles
- thinning (wasting) of muscles
- difficulty lifting up the front part of your foot and toes, particularly noticeable when walking (foot drop)
Symptoms of autonomic neuropathy can include:
- constipation or diarrhoea, particularly at night
- feeling sick, bloating and belching
- low blood pressure, which can make you feel faint or dizzy when you stand up
- rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
- excessive sweating or a lack of sweating
- problems with sexual function, such as erectile dysfunction in men
- difficulty emptying your bladder of urine
- loss of bowel control
Depending on the specific nerve affected, symptoms of mononeuropathy can include:
- altered sensation or weakness in the fingers
- double vision or other problems with focusing your eyes, sometimes with eye pain
- weakness of one side of your face (Bell's palsy)
- foot or shin pain, weakness or altered sensation
The most common type of mononeuropathy is carpal tunnel syndrome. The carpal tunnel is a small tunnel in your wrist.
In carpal tunnel syndrome, the median nerve becomes compressed where it passes through this tunnel, which may cause tingling, pain or numbness in the fingers.