| Last Modified: January 17, 2012
What Is Peripheral Neuropathy?
Neuropathy is irritation or damage to the nerves. Nerves are long, wire-like fibers in our body that transmit information from one area of our body to another. They carry sensations (feeling) of temperature, pressure, pain to the brain and control the movement of your arms and legs. Peripheral neuropathy is a condition in which a nerve or group of nerves have difficulty "communicating" with each other.
What Causes Peripheral Neuropathy and How Long Will It Last?
Certain chemotherapy drugs can cause neuropathy, especially at higher doses or after multiple doses. Chemotherapy medications that can cause neuropathy include: vincristine, vinblastine, vinorelbine, Taxol, Taxotere, oxaliplatin, bortezomib and cisplatin.
Peripheral Neuropathy can occur acutely- meaning during or shortly after receiving a treatment and last a few days, or it can be chronic, that is, long-lasting and persisting between treatments. You may experience tingling, a feeling of pins and needles, or numbness in your fingers or toes, especially in response to cold. The sensation of tingling can be triggered by eating, drinking, or touching something cold or even breathing in cold air. Symptoms often resolve within a few days of treatment, but sometimes symptoms persist. In some, the peripheral neuropathy can become severe leading to constant numbness in the hands or feet, especially for those who have had multiple doses of chemotherapy known to cause neuropathy. It can cause difficulty doing fine motor tasks with your hands like buttoning a shirt, picking up small objects, or cause problems with balance or walking. For people whose symptoms continue after treatment is complete, these often improve or resolve within 6-12 months. Some people do experience these symptoms for a longer period of time and for some, they become permanent.
Occasionally during radiation therapy or surgery, injuries or scarring can occur, putting pressure on nerves and causing neuropathy. And, finally, tumors can put pressure on nerves or release substances that affect nerves.
What are the Common Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy?
When neuropathy occurs, one or several of your peripheral nerves have difficulty sensing information. This may lead to such symptoms as weakness, pain, imbalance, or numbness. These symptoms may limit your ability to safely perform daily activities such as walking or dressing.
Call your Doctor or Nurse if you have any of the following symptoms of neuropathy:
What Can I Do?