Types of Nerve Damage

Peripheral neuropathy can be broadly categorized by the type of nerve that has been damaged. The peripheral nervous system is made up of three types of nerves:

  • motor nerves (responsible for voluntary movement)
  • sensory nerves (responsible for sensing temperature, pain, touch, and limb positioning); including large and small fibers
  • autonomic nerves (responsible for involuntary functions such as breathing, blood pressure, sexual function, digestion)

Peripheral neuropathy also can be classified by where it occurs in the body. Nerve damage that occurs in one area of the body is called mononeuropathy, in many areas, polyneuropathy. When the disorder occurs in the same places on both sides of the body, the condition is called symmetric neuropathy.

Neuropathy also can be categorized by cause, such as diabetic neuropathy and nutritional neuropathy. When a cause cannot be identified, the condition is called idiopathic neuropathy.

Publication Review By: Sandeep K. Aggarwal, M.D., Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 01 Jan 2000

Last Modified: 13 Dec 2011