Understanding Peripheral Neuropathy — Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention

How Is Peripheral Neuropathy Diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects you may have a form of peripheral neuropathy, he or she may refer you to a neurologist, a doctor who specializes in diseases of the nerves. The neurologist (or your own doctor) will begin by taking a history of your symptoms and examining you for signs of muscle weakness, numbness, and impaired reflexes. You may need blood and urine tests to check for diabetes, vitamin or metabolic deficiencies and the presence of any underlying disease or genetic defect that may be affecting nerve function. You’ll also need to take a serious look at your alcohol intake and what medications you are taking.

You may also be given an electromyogram (EMG) and nerve conduction velocity (NCV) tests, which is used to assess nerve and muscle function and measure the electrical properties of the nerves. Using these tests, doctors can often pinpoint the abnormal nerves and determine which part of their structure is damaged.

Nerve and muscle biopsies may also be performed and may provide valuable information about the type and cause of the neuropathy. A spinal tap, or lumbar puncture, is sometimes recommended to help identify infection or inflammation that might be associated with the neuropathy.

If anyone in your family has been diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy or has had similar symptoms, your doctor may want to review their medical records or examine them to look for potential hereditary links to your condition.

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