Every person's experience with peripheral neuropathy can be as unique as the individual themselves, there are some common symptoms shared by most individuals. Peripheral neuropathy can occur in sensory nerves, motor nerves, or autonomic nerves, and most often starts in the nerves that reach to the toes.
Patients who develop pain with peripheral neuropathy describe the pain using a variety of words, including "burning," "throbbing," "deep ache", "raw skin," "skin sensitivity," "sharp," "electric-like," "pins and needles," "freezing cold," "like walking on ground glass," "itchy," and others. Some patients say they don't have pain but have unpleasant and irritating sensations which may include "buzzing," "like bugs crawling," and "aching". Some people feel like they have socks on, even though they are barefoot.
Symptoms depend on the affected nerves, but look out for the following:
- Burning Sensations
- Sharp, electric-like pain
- Numbness of the feet and/or legs, (in a stocking pattern)
- Numbness of the hands and/or arms (in a glove pattern)
- Sensitivity to touch, even very light touch
- Difficulty sleeping from foot and/or leg discomfort
- Leg Cramping
- Pain while walking
- Pricking or tingling feeling
How the symptoms progress is different for every patient. In some patients, the pain does not spread beyond the toes or feet and there is no progression. For others, the progression to calves and hands occurs rapidly, in a matter of months; in other cases, the spread is very gradual, over many years. Some patients develop the inability to move normally. Patients can develop trouble with their sense of positioning; and may have difficulty with their gait or balance. For example, patients may develop difficulties with balance and find it harder and harder to walk. Their legs feel heavy and they may have to drag themselves up the stairs.
Some patients have constant pain, day and night. Others only have noticeable pain at bedtime. Often, patients may complain that the pain interferes with their sleep and they may develop Restless Leg Syndrome and or Insomnia (difficulty sleeping).
As with all chronic pain, patients with painful peripheral neuropathy may also develop depression.