Peripheral Neuropathy

nervous system
Nervous System
Bartolomeo Eustachi, 16th c.

Peripheral Neuropathy (PN) results from damage to the nerves of the Peripheral Nervous System (PNS). The PNS comprises all of the nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord. PN most commonly affects the extremities–hands and feet.

PN causes different sensations in the affected areas. Generally speaking, peripheral neuropathy will cause varying degrees of numbness in the extremities, ranging from a tingling sensation to a lack of sensation.

There are over 100 types of Peripheral Neuropathies. They are categorized based on the type of nerve affected, the area of the body affected, and the symptoms experienced by the patient. It is estimated that up to 20% of cancer patients will develop some type of PN during treatment.

Causes

PN is not exclusive to lymphoma patients or cancer patients; there are myriad causes ranging from diabetes to thyroid disorders. In lymphoma patients, the damage is usually caused by either chemotherapy or radiation. Once the drug therapy is finished, the PN usually dissipates.

The following chemotherapy agents are well known causes of PN:

Common Symptoms

Some patients experience pain while others experience numbness. Uncontrollable twitching, muscle weakness, and constipation are also symptoms.

Also, tumors may swell near nerves, causing temporary damage. If this is the case, symptoms may persist until the tumors have shrunk from treatment.

Peripheral Neuropathy as a result of cancer treatments is often temporary and patients recover quickly. If you suffer from PN for an extended period of time and symptoms do not disappear, alert your doctor (Late Effects). Medications used to treat epilepsy and depression have been known to help ease symptoms. Your doctor will know the best options for you.

Resources

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