Damage to the motor nerves typically results in symptoms that affect muscles such as muscle weakness, cramps, and spasms. It is not unusual for this type of neuropathy to result in a loss of balance and coordination. Neuropathy patients may have difficulty in running or walking, a feeling of heaviness in their legs, and stumbling or tiring easily. Damage to nerves in the arms can make it difficult to do routine tasks like carry bags, open jars, or turn door knobs.
Sensory nerve damage can lead to symptoms like an impaired sense of position, tingling, numbness, pinching, and pain. Pain from this form of neuropathy is often described as burning, freezing, or tingly, and many report a sensation of wearing an invisible “glove”. These sensations often tend to worsen at night, possibly becoming painful and severe. On the other hand, sensory nerve damage may result in a lessening or absence of sensation, where nothing is felt at all.
Autonomic nerve damage affects the internal organs. Involuntary functions can result in abnormal blood pressure and heart rate, reduced perspiration capacity, bladder dysfunction, diarrhea, incontinence, sexual dysfunction, and thinning of the skin.
Neuropathy is not an easy condition to diagnose. It is not defined as a single disease, but is rather a symptom with several possible triggers. The standard diagnostic process involves examining a patient’s medical history and examining tendon reflexes, muscle strength and tone, testing sensations, and examining posture and coordination. Blood tests are also taken to measure levels of vitamin B-12. Other tests may include urinalysis, thyroid function tests, and a nerve conduction study. A doctor may also recommend a nerve biopsy, where a small portion of a nerve is removed and examined through a microscope.