neuropathy center header The Columbia Neuropathy Research Center CUMC Department of Neurology, Columbia University

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What is Neuropathy?

Lyn Goldsmith and Jonathan Marra with patient Peripheral neuropathy results from damage to the peripheral nervous system, which is responsible for transmitting information between the brain, the spinal cord, and the rest of the body. Hundreds of types of peripheral neuropathy have been identified, each with a defining set of symptoms. People commonly report numbness, tingling, and a prickly sensations. Others develop an extreme sensitivity to touch, while others develop muscle weakness and muscle wasting. Severe symptoms can include burning pain which is typically worse at night, limb paralysis, and organ or gland dysfunction.

Autonomic neuropathy is a group of disorders that damage the nerves supplying the internal body structures that regulate numerous 'automatic' body functions such as blood pressure, heart rate, sweating, and bowel, bladder, and sexual function. If the cause can be identified and treated, the autonomic nerves may repair or regenerate. The symptoms may improve with proper treatment. Most symptoms of autonomic neuropathy are uncomfortable but they can be debilitating in severe cases, especially if adequate blood pressure is not maintained while standing (this is called orthostatic hypotension).

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Updated February 2, 2012
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