Overview of Nerve Damage

Peripheral neuropathy is a general term referring to disorders of peripheral nerves. The peripheral nervous system is made up of the nerves that branch out of the spinal cord to all parts of the body.

Peripheral nerve cells have three main parts: cell body, axons and dendrites (nerve/muscle junctions). Any part of the nerve can be affected, but damage to axons is most common. The axon transmits signals from nerve cell to nerve cell or muscle. Most axons are surrounded by a substance called myelin, which facilitates signal transmission.

Peripheral neuropathy can be associated with poor nutrition, a number of diseases (including diabetes), and pressure or trauma. Many people suffer from the disorder without ever identifying the cause.

Incidence and Prevalence of Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy affects at least 20 million people in the United States. Nearly 60 percent of all people with diabetes suffer from diabetic neuropathy.

Publication Review By: Sandeep K. Aggarwal, M.D.

Published: 30 Dec 1999

Last Modified: 28 Sep 2015