The peripheral nerves include the nerves outside your brain and spinal cord such as nerves of the face, arms, legs and torso. These peripheral nerves communicate between the brain and muscles, skin, and internal organs with electrical signals.
When damaged, peripheral nerves can't communicate properly. There are many diseases that can damage the peripheral nerves. Examples include:
- diseases of the endocrine system, such as diabetes and hypothyroidism
- autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis and lupus
- infections including viruses such as shingles, cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr virus, and HIV
- kidney dysfunction where large amounts of toxins build up in the body and damage the peripheral nerves
- cancers that put pressure on surrounding nerves or tumours that arise directly from nerve tissue
- chemotherapy for cancer can also cause damage to peripheral nerves
- exposure to toxins including some medicines, industrial toxins (lead, mercury, arsenic), and heavy alcohol consumption are known to damage peripheral nerves.
Peripheral nerves can also be damaged by physical injury including trauma (such as an accident), damage during surgery, or repetitive stress.
If you have peripheral nerve damage you may experience symptoms including:
- muscle problems, including weakness, cramps, twitching and wasting
- sensory changes, including tingling, numbness, burning, or sharp pain, or shock
- low blood pressure
- thinning of the skin
- bowel changes (such as diarrhoea or constipation).
Follow the links below to find trusted information about peripheral nerve diseases.
Last reviewed: August 2016