What is Peripheral Neuropathy?
The human nervous system has two main parts: the central nervous system (the spinal cord and brain) and the peripheral nervous system consisting of peripheral sensory nerves made up of sensory neurons, the longest cell type in our body. Sensory neurons pick up signals from sensory receptors at their dendrites and release them at their axon terminals to transfer them to the next neuron or the spinal cord and, ultimately, the brain. Normally, all of this occurs virtually instantaneously.
In peripheral neuropathy (PN), the peripheral sensory nerves become damaged as a result of injury or disease and cannot make these transfers efficiently or at all. (In diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN), for instance, the degeneration of nerve terminals occurs specifically in the limbs and is caused by a high blood glucose level that disrupts the neurotransmission). This nerve damage leads to a disturbance in sensory function and symptoms ranging from tingling or persistent pain to a muted or complete loss of feeling.