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Sensory neuropathy: symptoms, causes and treatment

Sensory neuropathy: symptoms, causes and treatment

March 29, 2024

Very diverse factors, from genetic inheritance to inflammatory diseases such as lupus, can cause nerve damage. These disorders are known as peripheral neuropathies and cause symptoms related to the pathways of the senses, with movement or with the autonomic nervous system.

One of the most frequent types of peripheral neuropathy is the sensitive , which is characterized by the appearance of symptoms and signs related to the perception of sensations and occurs as a result of nerve injuries.

In this article we will analyze the most common symptoms, causes and treatments of this disorder.

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What is peripheral neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathy is a category of diseases that affect the functioning of the nerves. The specific consequences of these alterations vary depending on which nerves are injured; It is common to cause sensory and motor deficits , as well as dysfunctions in the organs and glands of the endocrine system.

Since the autonomic nervous system also contains nerve fibers, peripheral neuropathy is sometimes associated with disturbances in functions such as respiration, blood circulation and the regulation of body temperature.

Some of the most common causes of peripheral neuropathy they include systemic diseases such as diabetes or lupus erythematosus, the consumption of certain antibiotic medications, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, trauma, vitamin deficiency and viral infections. Sometimes it is transmitted by hereditary genetic mechanisms.

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Types of peripheral neuropathy

We speak of "mononeuropathy" when the affectation is limited to a single nerve, while the term "polyneuropathy" is used to refer to cases in which multiple nerves of the same area are damaged. In contrast, multifocal mononeuropathy is diagnosed when there is more than one nerve injured independently.

The label "sensitive neuropathy" is reserved for nerve disorders that predominantly affect the sensory system , associating above all with touch and proprioception. In any case, it is very common for different types of neuropathy to appear together in the same person.


The characteristic symptoms of sensory neuropathy consist of the development of functional deficits in the senses, as well as the appearance of sensations that should not be perceived or that have a greater intensity than expected. The symptoms of sensory neuropathy tend to occur symmetrically in both hemispheres of the body.

Among the deficit symptoms we find the lack of sensitivity to tactile stimuli , as the sensations of texture, vibration or pressure, as well as pain. In addition, there are usually problems in the perception of temperature changes and a reduction in the ability to detect intense heat or cold.

The loss of perception of the position of the body, which is associated with deficits in balance, in posture and in the coordination of movements , especially when standing and walking. Often the symptoms are more marked on the feet, which further alters this type of function.

On the other hand, significant sensations of pain may appear as a result of objectively less painful stimuli (hyperalgesia) or that should not cause damage at all (allodynia). Sometimes itching, tingling, burning or shooting pains without identifiable cause are also perceived, and tremors may appear in the muscles.

In a large number of cases, sensory neuropathy occurs simultaneously with dysfunctions of the motor nerves. When this happens, it is most common for sensory symptoms to appear first in the lower extremities and subsequently develop. Motor-type signs, such as muscle weakness and gait disturbances .

Causes of this disorder

The scientific community has identified a large number of possible causes of sensory neuropathy. Some of the most common are the following:

  • Inflammatory diseases such as lupus systemic erythematosus, multiple sclerosis, sarcoidosis, Guillain-Barr√© syndrome or leprosy.
  • Endocrine and metabolic diseases such as diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism, amyloidosis or chronic kidney disease.
  • Diseases of the bone marrow such as lymphomas.
  • Traumatic injuries in the nerves of the senses.
  • Stroke , particularly ischemia.
  • Genetic inheritance of diseases such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth and Friedreich's ataxia.
  • Contact with toxic substances such as poisons and heavy metals.
  • Deficiency of vitamins A, B1, B12 and E or excess of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine).
  • Chronic inflammatory responses in nerve fibers.
  • Alterations in the blood circulation to the affected nerves.
  • Consumption of medications like the fluoroquinolones.
  • Chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Treatment and drugs

The treatment of the symptoms of sensory neuropathy focuses mainly on the identification of the underlying cause to correct the core of the alterations. When this is not possible, therapy is aimed at alleviating specific symptoms.

In this sense analgesic medications are usually used (including therapeutic cannabis), as well as antidepressants and anticonvulsants. Among the antidepressant drugs are duloxetine and tricyclics such as nortriptyline and amitriptyline, while gabapentin, pregabalin and sodium valproate are the most commonly used antiepileptic drugs.

On the other hand, recent research suggests that transcutaneous electrical neurostimulation therapy can be very effective in reducing pain symptoms, although the results are only maintained while the treatment continues.

In cases where neuropathy occurs as a consequence of complications in a case of diabetes mellitus , the management of blood glucose levels may be enough to correct the problems.

Peripheral Neuropathy (March 2024).

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