Primary Care in Rochester and Kasson

What is peripheral neuropathy?

3/31/2022 by Scott Speelziek, M.D.


Peripheral neuropathy is a condition where the longest nerves running down the arms and legs are irritated and damaged at the ends, leading to symptoms beginning at those points — typically in the feet first. Peripheral neuropathy is estimated to affect 2%–3% of the population. However, with increasing rates of conditions such as diabetes, the number of people afflicted with peripheral neuropathy also is expected to increase. 

The peripheral nervous system is made up of two major components: the large fibers and the small fibers. Which fibers are affected can lead to specific symptoms. 

Large fiber symptoms are: 

  • Numbness. 
  • Balance difficulties, particularly on uneven surfaces. 
  • "Thick" or "dead" feeling in the feet. 
  • Weakness. 

Small fiber symptoms are: 

  • Burning. 
  • Itching. 
  • Tingling. 
  • Hypersensitive feet. 

In certain cases, peripheral neuropathy may be related to another medical condition, such as diabetes or specific vitamin deficiencies. An evaluation with your primary care physician, nurse practitioner or physician assistant can identify these causes in a timely manner. Several oral and topical medications can reduce painful sensations and symptoms. 

If you feel as though you may be affected by peripheral neuropathy, you're encouraged to discuss your symptoms with your primary care provider to begin workup of your symptoms. The Integrated Community Specialties — Neurology practice is also available to collaborate with your health care provider to help diagnose and manager peripheral neuropathy. 

Scott Speelziek, M.D., is a physician in Integrated Community Specialties — Neurology and practices in the Baldwin building and Mayo Clinic Health System in Owatonna.