There are two types of symptoms with PN - negative and positive.
Negative signs, which come first, are when damage to the nervous system brings about a LOSS of a particular function. For example, loss of reflexes, loss of strength, and loss of sensation like light touch. These are rarely detectable to the patient because the brain makes up the difference in these losses.
Only after some time do the sick and damaged nerves develop the positive signs of neuropathy; tingling , burning, biting, stabbing, shooting pains. These are also a reaction of the brain and the nervous system.
Neuropathy is actually both a symptom and a condition. It's a short-circuit in the electrical impulses caused by damaged nerves in any extremity in the body, and it's symptoms range between being extremely painful to completely numbing, and anything in between. It can be caused by medical problems, i.e. diabetes, but most cases are labeled "idiopathic" meaning the cause is unknown.
At its extreme, neuropathy is terribly painful. For some patients there is a tingling feeling in the feet, toes or fingers or hands, as if they fell asleep. It has also been described as hundreds of bees stinging.
Neuropathy can come on suddenly over many years. Some people are affected only by a weakness in the arms and legs which leads to difficulty standing, walking, or getting out of a chair. The loss of sensation from the feet, ankles and toes contributes to patients not having a ‘good sense’ of where their feet are in space, touching the ground, and this causes them to fall very easily.
These under-recognized sensory losses can only be detected with a proper clinical examination.
Some patients will eventually become unable to walk at all. Others start with a tingling, pin pricking feeling that turns into deep sharp stabbing pains and burning electric shocks. These debilitating problems can also be at their worst at night.
Some patients will describe the pain as so severe that they cannot tolerate a bed sheet on their legs/feet.
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