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 at the same time.
A combination of sensory and motor neuropathy is particularly common (sensorimotor polyneuropathy).
The symptoms of the main types of peripheral neuropathy are described below.
Symptoms of sensory neuropathy can include:
prickling and tingling sensation in the affected body part (pins and needles)
numbness and less of an 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 (allodynia)
loss of balance or co-ordination caused by less ability to tell the position of the feet or hands (sensory ataxia)
Symptoms of motor neuropathy can include:
twitching and muscle cramps
muscle weakness or paralysis affecting one or more muscles
thinning (wasting) of muscles
foot drop – difficulty lifting up the front part of your foot and toes, particularly noticeable when walking
Damage to the autonomic nerves can result in a wide range of symptoms depending on where in the body the damage occurs.
Symptoms of autonomic neuropathy can include:
feeling sick, bloating and belching
low blood pressure (postural or orthostatic hypotension), which can make you feel faint or dizzy when standing up
rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
excessive sweating or a lack of sweating
problems with sexual function, such as erectile dysfunction in men
difficulty fully emptying your bladder of urine
bowel incontinence (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 (CTS). The carpal tunnel is a small tunnel in your wrist.
In CTS, the median nerve becomes compressed where it passes through this tunnel, which may cause tingling, pain or numbness in the fingers.