Peripheral neuropathy (PN) is caused by damage to the peripheral nervous system, the complex network of nerves that transmits messages between the brain and other parts of the body. Such damage can cause impaired movement, loss of sensation in the arms and legs, numbness, tingling, and pain. A few facts about the various types of PN are presented here.
The Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy reports that approximately 20 million Americans have some form of PN; diabetic (60%), idiopathic (23%), chemotherapy-induced (10%), HIV/AIDS-related (2%), and other (5%). Chemotherapy-induced PN affects approximately 30% to 40% of patients with cancer. The most common form of neuropathy, diabetic PN (DPN), affects 60% to 70% of the>29 million Americans who have diabetes. Patients with uncontrolled diabetes and DPN are at risk for injury and eventual amputation. Approximately 54,000 patients with diabetes undergo an amputation yearly.1
A recent study of 111 patients in rural South Carolina compared recorded diagnoses of DPN and/or painful DPN (p-DPN) with results from foot examinations performed in a pharmacist-led free clinic. DPN was found in 62.2% of patients and p-DPN in 23.4%. Among 26 patients with p-DPN, 14 (53.8%) had been diagnosed by the referring physician and 12 (46.2%) were identified at the clinic. Although 95% of the patients with p-DPN received adequate medication, >50% used subtherapeutic doses. The researchers concluded that <5% of patients received optimum therapy per the American Academy of Neurology guidelines.2
Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease is the most frequently inherited disorder of the peripheral nerves. It affects approximately 150,000 people in the United States and approximately 2.8 million people worldwide.3,4
Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is a rare autoimmune disorder where the body attacks parts of the peripheral nervous system—usually first in the legs. Symptoms of weakness and paralysis progress rapidly. Approximately 90% of patients are at their weakest condition by week 3. Recovery may take only a few weeks, or it may take a few years. Approximately 30% of patients have some weakness after 3 years. Only approximately 1 in 100,000 patients develop GBS, and researchers are still unsure why the disorder occurs in some individuals but not in others.5
1. The Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy. What is peripheral neuropathy. 2016. www.foundationforpn.org/what-is-peripheral-neuropathy/. Accessed May 1, 2017.
2. Pruitt J III, Moracho-Vilrriales C, Threatt T, et al. Identification, prevalence, and treatment of painful diabetic neuropathy in patients from a rural area in South Carolina. J Pain Res. 2017;10:833-843.
3. National Institutes of Health. Genetics Home Reference. Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. Updated December 2015. https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/charcot-marie-tooth-disease. Accessed May 1, 2017.
4. Charcot-Marie-Tooth Association. Understanding CMT. www.cmtausa.org/understanding-cmt/. Accessed May 1, 2017.
5. National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Guillain-Barré Syndrome fact sheet. July 2011. www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Guillain-Barr%C3%A9-Syndrome-Fact-Sheet. Accessed May 1, 2017.