Peripheral Neuropathy Overview, Incidence & Prevalence of Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy is a general term referring to disorders of peripheral nerves. The peripheral nervous system is made up of the nerves that branch out of the spinal cord to all parts of the body.

Overview of Nerve Damage

Peripheral nerve cells have three main parts: cell body, axons, and dendrites (nerve/muscle junctions). Any part of the nerve can be affected, but damage to axons is most common. The axon transmits signals from nerve cell to nerve cell or muscle. Most axons are surrounded by a substance called myelin, which facilitates signal transmission.

Peripheral neuropathy can be associated with poor nutrition, a number of diseases (including diabetes), and pressure or trauma. Many people suffer from the disorder without ever identifying the cause.

Incidence and Prevalence of Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy affects at least 20 million people in the United States. Nearly 60% of all people with diabetes suffer from diabetic neuropathy.

Nerve function tests. You may have nerve function tests during your evaluation. Electromyography, a type of nerve function test, records electrical activity in your muscles to determine if your weakness is caused by muscle damage or nerve damage.

You also may have nerve conduction studies, which assess how your nerves and muscles respond to small electrical stimuli. In a nerve conduction study, a probe sends electrical signals to a nerve, and an electrode placed along the nerve's pathway records the nerve's response to the signals