What is PN?

If you have been told that you have peripheral neuropathy (PN) and / or neuropathic pain (NeP) the chances are that you will be pleased to to have found this web site. Many people in your situation feel confused and a little afraid. Uncertainty over the future course of your illness, along with pain, may feature highly as cause for concern. Being told that you have a condition which you may never have even heard of before can also lower your self confidence. It may surprise you to know that you are not on your own, far from it. Some authorities have estimated that at least up to 8% of the population may be affected by PN. That equates to approximately 4.7 million people in the UK alone.

Our first message to you is “don’t worry”; you are not on your own. The Neuropathy Trust began in 1998 with one individual who, like yourself, believed that he was just one of a few people affected. Learning more about these common conditions and their likely effects on yourself and others is one way to begin the process of regaining your confidence. It may become a turning point in your own life, as it has been for so many other people.

So, what exactly is Peripheral Neuropathy (PN)?

Peripheral Neuropathy [pron. - new-rop-athy] is a generic phrase denoting functional disturbances and/or pathological changes in the peripheral nervous system.

If the involvement is in one nerve it is commonly referred to as mononeuropathy, in several nerves, mononeuritis multiplex and if diffuse and bilateral, polyneuropathy.

Peripheral Neuropathy is not a specific disease but rather a manifestation of many conditions that cause damage to the peripheral nerves. There are believed to be in excess of one hundred different causes of peripheral neuropathy.

Many of our subscribers are affected by what is known as a cryptogenic or idiopathic neuropathy, which simply means that they have been diagnosed as having a peripheral neuropathy but the underlying cause has yet to be determined. We also have an ever-increasing number of subscribers who are affected by neuropathies of known origin, such as diabetes mellitus, HIV, nutritional deficiency, and as a result of the neurotoxic effects of certain prescribed treatments and therapies.

The symptoms of peripheral neuropathy often affect the arms and legs. Common characteristics, depending on the type of neuropathy may include muscle weakness, chronic neuropathic pain (including – numbness, sensory disturbance, pins & needles, burning sensations etc.), and paralysis.

Additional complications reported by a significant number of our subscribers include amongst others; fatigue, memory retention deficit, mood swings, swallowing difficulty, acid reflux/generalised stomach complaints, and ataxia. Ataxia is a term used to describe a general lack of co-ordination, position sense and manual dexterity.

The symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy often vary from person to person and can affect people to a lesser or greater degree. However, in some cases, the symptoms may tend to necessitate a change in lifestyle which not only can affect the person directly, but also may possibly have a knock on effect on the family.

One of the hardest things about coming to terms with peripheral neuropathy is not necessarily the disabling effect that it can cause. It is quite natural to experience –

Feelings of isolation
 – because the chance of meeting other people with a similar condition may appear remote.

Feelings of frustration – because you quite naturally want to know what is happening to your body. These feelings can be exacerbated if no definitive diagnosis has been reached.

Peripheral Neuropathy affects people in different ways. It is quite natural to think that you are on your own and you may find it difficult to explain to others what it feels like.