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Peripheral Neuropathy

The many conditions that involve damage to the peripheral nervous system.

Understanding Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy refers to the many conditions that involve damage to the peripheral nervous system (PNS), which is a communication network that sends signals between the brain and all other parts of the body.

Peripheral nerves send many types of information to the brain like temperature, vibration, and sensation. They also carry signals from the brain to the rest of the body. Best known are the signals to the muscles that tell them to move, similar to the cables that connect the different parts of a computer. Peripheral neuropathy can lead to:

  • Loss of signals normally sent (like a broken wire)
  • Inappropriate signaling when there shouldn’t be any (like static on a telephone line)
  • Errors that distort the messages being sent (like a wavy television picture)

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of neuropathy can range from mild to disabling but are rarely life-threatening. The symptoms depend on the type of nerve fibers affected and the severity of the damage. Symptoms may develop over days, weeks, or years. In some cases, the symptoms improve on their own and may not require advanced care. Unlike nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, peripheral nerve cells continue to grow throughout life.


An orthosis (brace) can improve function and help prevent complications. It is important to understand specifically what you hope to accomplish with a brace. Discuss your goals and any medical conditions, comfort concerns, and other functional problems with your orthotist.

Most often, orthoses include accommodative foot orthoses (FO) or ankle-foot orthoses (AFO). They generally reduce the amount of pressure to decrease the potential for injury in the affected limb.

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