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What Is Peripheral Neuropathy?

Woman rubbing her foot.

Peripheral neuropathy is a disease of the nerves in your feet. It may also eventually affect the arms. It may make you unable to sense pain. Lack of pain makes you more likely to injure yourself without knowing it. But you can learn ways to protect your feet from injury.

When Nerves Are Diseased

Nerves in your feet carry signals to your brain. Your brain reads those signals and interprets them as sensations. When nerves in your feet are diseased, signals may be disrupted or changed. The result may be a lack of feeling (numbness) in your feet or other symptoms (tingling or pain) of peripheral neuropathy.

Woman with bandaged foot talking with her health care provider.

Symptoms Mask Pain

Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy begin in your toes. The symptoms slowly spread up your feet and legs as more nerve is affected. These symptoms may decrease sensation in your feet or mask pain. Without pain, you may not notice a cut or even a bone fracture. Cuts may become infected. Fractures may heal poorly and lead to foot deformity.

Image of foot

Online Medical Reviewer: Foster, Sara, RN, MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 9/27/2013
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