What Is Peripheral Neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathies are a diverse group of disorders, all of which affect the nerve fibers of the body outside of the brain and spinal cord. These disorders can cause a combination of neurologic symptoms including weakness, numbness and pain in the arms, hands, legs and feet.

Diagnosis of Peripheral Neuropathy

Diagnosing neuromuscular illness can be a complex process. A broad range of diseases can affect nerves and muscles, and often produce similar symptoms, such as weakness and numbness. Penn's Neuromuscular Disorders Program offers consultations and comprehensive neurodiagnostic studies to help with difficult diagnosis. A Penn neuromuscular specialist reviews the complete medical history, and performs a comprehensive neuromuscular examination, of each patient. When appropriate, our specialists use our technologically advanced neurodiagnostic facilities.

Diagnostic testing includes:

  • Biochemical and genetic testing
  • Computerized tomography (CT)
  • Lumbar puncture (spinal tap)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Nerve and muscle biopsy
  • Nerve conduction studies and electromyography (EMG)

Treatment at Penn

Penn's Neuromuscular Disorders Program has a long history of being one of the leading groups in the world providing clinical care for people with neuropathy, doing original research on neuropathy, and training neuropathy specialists. We have nationally recognized clinical centers of excellence in GBS/CIDP and CMT. We also have active, funded research projects on the causes of inherited neuropathies (led by Dr. Steven Scherer) and immune-mediated neuropathies (led by Dr. Eric Lancaster). Achieving an accurate diagnosis is the first step in formulating a management plan. Physicians review the management options and work with the patient to develop an individualized treatment plan. In some cases, this will focus on treatment of the underlying medical condition that causes neuropathy. In other cases, there may be specific medications used to treat the neuropathy and improve strength and sensation. Treatment medications may include medications for neuropathic pain and immune-modulating treatments.

Penn Programs & Services for Peripheral Neuropathy

Neuromuscular Disorders

Our neuromuscular disorders program provides the latest advancements in the evaluation, diagnosis and treatment for all types of neuromuscular disorders, such as ALS, Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) and muscular dystrophies. 

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