Polyneuropathy: Types Causes Symptoms Treatment and More

Polyneuropathy is a condition that affects many people, yet few know about it or understand it. It is a group of nerve disorders that affect the peripheral nervous system and can lead to pain, loss of sensation, muscle weakness, and other motor problems. Understanding Polyneuropathy – its types, causes, symptoms, and treatments – is the first step to managing it. In this regard, let's explore all aspects of Polyneuropathy so you can feel more informed and in control. Read on to learn how to best manage your symptoms.

What is Polyneuropathy?

Polyneuropathy is a nerve disorder that can affect multiple peripheral nerves throughout the body. This can impact the motor and sensory nerves, resulting in weakness, numbness, tingling and pain, usually in the toes and feet. It can eventually involve other body areas, such as your hands and arms. Polyneuropathy can also cause incorrect perception of temperature or touch and create muscle sensations such as twitching.

While most cases are idiopathic (meaning they have no identifiable cause), they can be caused by other conditions, such as diabetes or autoimmune diseases. Treatment options may vary depending on the underlying cause but typically focuses on controlling the symptoms and slowing progression through medications, lifestyle changes, or support devices like braces or splints. With prompt diagnosis and treatment, most individuals with Polyneuropathy can manage their condition effectively and enjoy a high quality of life for many years.

Types of Polyneuropathy

The most common type of Polyneuropathy is diabetic neuropathy, which affects people with diabetes. Diabetic neuropathy can cause pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in the hands and feet. It can also lead to problems with the digestive system, sexual function, and heart health. Treatment for diabetic neuropathy includes medicines to control pain and blood sugar levels, physical therapy, and lifestyle changes.

Other types of Polyneuropathy include −

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome − This condition causes numbness, tingling, and pain in the hand and wrist. Treatment options include splinting the wrist, injections of steroids or other medicines, and surgery.

  • Guillain-Barré syndrome − This condition causes weakness and paralysis of the muscles. Treatment options include physical therapy and plasmapheresis (a treatment that filters the blood).

  • Hereditary neuropathies − These conditions are passed down in families. Symptoms can vary from mild to severe. Treatment options include physical therapy and medications to relieve pain or help with muscle weakness.

Causes of Polyneuropathy

The most common type of Polyneuropathy is diabetic neuropathy, which can occur if you have diabetes. Other types of Polyneuropathy include −

  • Alcoholic neuropathy − This type of neuropathy can develop if you drink too much alcohol.

  • Vitamin B12 deficiency − This vitamin is important for nervous system function. A lack of vitamin B12 can lead to nerve damage.

  • Cancer − Cancer can cause nerves to be damaged by cancer itself or by cancer treatments such as chemotherapy.

  • Autoimmune disease − Autoimmune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis can damage nerves.

  • Infection − Viruses, bacteria, and other organisms can sometimes infect and damage nerves.

Symptoms of Polyneuropathy

The symptoms of Polyneuropathy can vary depending on the underlying cause, but they typically involve problems with movement, sensation, and/or organ function.

The most common symptoms of Polyneuropathy include the following −

  • Muscle weakness

  • Loss of sensation (numbness) in the extremities

  • Painful sensations in the extremities

  • Problems with balance and coordination

  • Fatigue

  • Digestive problems

  • Urinary problems

Treatment for Polyneuropathy

There is no definite treatment blueprint, as the condition can vary significantly in terms of its severity and underlying causes. However, some general treatment options can be followed in most cases.

A. Medications

Treatment for Polyneuropathy includes various medications such as antidepressants, anticonvulsants, IVIg or plasma exchange (for certain types of Polyneuropathy) and surgery in severe cases.

Antidepressants are used to help manage pain, while anticonvulsants work to improve nerve sensation. In some cases of Polyneuropathy, alternative therapies like acupuncture may be a good choice because this therapy is designed to improve the flow of energy and boost circulation in the body.

IVIg or plasma exchange serves to replace antibodies in the bloodstream that have been decreased by an autoimmune cause that can lead to some types of Polyneuropathy. However, it cannot reverse the damage already done by the disease, so this method should only be used when other treatments have failed.

Surgery is typically only used as a last resort for extreme cases, but it provides hope for providing relief from chronic neuropathic pain caused by Polyneuropathy. While having Polyneuropathy can be daunting, there are many treatment options available to reduce the effects of this disorder and help people return to a more normal state of health.

B. Lifestyle Changes

Exercise and physical therapy have been shown to improve strength and alleviate pain. Eating a healthy diet and managing your weight can help improve balance while decreasing the chances of developing other conditions that could contribute to Polyneuropathy. Lastly, staying away from alcohol as much as possible will also help minimize negative consequences. With these small changes, you can make sure that living with Polyneuropathy is as manageable as possible.

Living with Polyneuropathy

Living with Polyneuropathy can be a stressful experience. It could be challenging when the condition affects your nerves, resulting in numbness, muscle weakness, and burning or tingling sensations in different areas of the body. To ease the symptoms, doctors will recommend treatment options that can include physical therapy, medications, and lifestyle changes to help manage symptoms.

However, the most important components of managing this condition are staying active, eating a balanced diet, and avoiding stress. Keeping up with doctor's appointments so that healthcare providers can monitor treatment progress and assess potential side effects is also highly recommended for those living with Polyneuropathy. It is important to understand that the sooner a person starts taking steps to manage their symptoms, the better the chances are for successfully combating this condition.


Polyneuropathy is a condition that can cause a wide range of symptoms, some of which can be quite serious. It is imperative to discuss with your doctor at the earliest if you are experiencing any signs or symptoms associated with Polyneuropathy. Your doctor can diagnose and treat the condition before it gets too late. With proper diagnosis and treatment, it is possible to manage the effects of Polyneuropathy and improve your overall quality of life.

Updated on: 21-Feb-2023


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