Peripheral neuropathy nursing diagnosis

Peripheral neuropathy nursing diagnoses are used to help detect the cause of a patient’s neuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy can result from a number of different causes, including nutritional deficiencies, autoimmune diseases, and infections.

In addition to the following clinical factors, a diagnostic algorithm for peripheral neuropathy uses the following six symptoms:

  • Neuropathic pain
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Burning
  • Loss of vibration sense
  • Muscle weakness

These symptoms indicate a peripheral neuropathy and not a stroke, cancer, or any other serious medical condition.

If the diagnosis of neuropathy is unclear, a physician may order further lab tests to rule out other conditions that cause numbness and tingling.

Differentiating peripheral neuropathy from other neuropathic conditions

Neuropathic pain is a symptom of peripheral neuropathy, but it is different from other types of neuropathic pain.

Peripheral neuropathy pain is diffuse and dull, and it can be described in two ways:

  • Spontaneous
  • With stimuli

Peripheral neuropathy pain is typically described as constant and diffuse (spontaneous). It can be triggered by stimuli, such as a pinprick or a tingling sensation.

Another common symptom of peripheral neuropathy is numbness. Numbness can be described as either:

  • Dull
  • Stiff
  • Sharp

If a patient has numbness, it is usually described as dull. Numbness is rarely described as stiff or sharp.

A third common symptom of peripheral neuropathy is tingling. Tingling is usually described as either:

  • Mild
  • Moderate
  • Severe

If a patient has tingling, it is usually described as mild to moderate.

If a patient has both peripheral neuropathy pain and numbness, they probably have a different type of peripheral neuropathy than if they have only one or the other.

The symptoms of peripheral neuropathy can vary depending on its cause. A peripheral neuropathy diagnosis should be confirmed by a physician.

What to expect?

What is peripheral neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathy is a common but often underdiagnosed condition. It can cause a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Numb limbs
  • Pain
  • Changes in skin color
  • Changes in skin temperature

There are a number of different causes of peripheral neuropathy, including vitamin deficiencies, autoimmune diseases, infections, and other causes.

The symptoms of peripheral neuropathy vary depending on its cause. If a patient has peripheral neuropathy and also numbness, they probably have a different type of peripheral neuropathy than if they have only one or the other.

What causes peripheral neuropathy?

The most common cause of peripheral neuropathy is a vitamin B12 deficiency. B12 deficiency causes nerve damage because it is needed for nerve cells to function properly.

A patient with a B12 deficiency may have symptoms such as:

  • Numb hands and feet
  • Numb legs
  • Muscle weakness or wasting
  • Memory problems
  • Difficulty with coordination

Other causes of peripheral neuropathy include autoimmune diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis.

Autoimmune diseases cause the immune system to mistakenly attack the body.

Other causes of peripheral neuropathy include:

  • Infections, such as HIV and syphilis
  • Cancer, such as leukemia and lymphoma
  • Heart problems
  • Diabetic neuropathy
  • Vitamin deficiencies, such as B1, B2, and B6

Peripheral neuropathy can also be caused by exposure to toxins, such as lead, mercury, and cadmium.

What are the symptoms?

Peripheral neuropathy symptoms vary depending on the cause. Common peripheral neuropathy symptoms include:

  • Numbness or tingling
  • Numbness that can be described as mild, moderate, or severe
  • Skin color changes
  • Loss of sensation in the limbs

Peripheral neuropathy symptoms can also vary depending on the location of the neuropathy. For example, numbness can be in a specific area or spread throughout the body.

Numbness in specific areas of the body can include:

  • Arms
  • Hands
  • Legs
  • Feet

Numbness that is diffuse can spread throughout the body, such as the face, trunk, or limbs.

Other symptoms of peripheral neuropathy include:

  • Muscle cramps
  • Muscle spasms
  • Muscle wasting
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Changes in coordination
  • Changes in balance
  • Fatigue

Peripheral neuropathy can also be accompanied by:

  • Muscle aches
  • Joint aches
  • Joint stiffness
  • Changes in bowel movements
  • Urinary problems

The symptoms of peripheral neuropathy vary depending on the cause. If a patient has peripheral neuropathy and also numbness, they probably have a different type of peripheral neuropathy than if they have only one or the other.

How is peripheral neuropathy diagnosed?

A diagnosis of peripheral neuropathy requires a physician’s evaluation.

To diagnose peripheral neuropathy, a physician may order one or more of the following:

  • Laboratory tests
  • Imaging tests
  • Electromyography (EMG)
  • Nerve conduction studies
  • Electroneurography

Peripheral neuropathy can be diagnosed using the following criteria:

  • Symptoms
  • Location
  • Severity or frequency of symptoms
  • Duration
  • Changes in other systems or other symptoms
  • Other testing

How is peripheral neuropathy treated?

Treatment for peripheral neuropathy depends on the cause and severity of the condition.

A doctor may prescribe one or more of the following:

  • A multivitamin
  • Medications
  • Corticosteroids
  • Antidepressants

Dietary changes can also be recommended.

A doctor may recommend taking a multivitamin, such as the B-12 deficiency supplement, to prevent further nerve damage.

Medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can be prescribed to reduce peripheral neuropathy symptoms.

In addition, antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), may be recommended. SSRIs are used to treat depression.

Treatment for peripheral neuropathy can also include physical therapy and occupational therapy.

Physical therapy can be used to improve coordination in patients with peripheral neuropathy.

Occupational therapy can be used to improve self-care skills and to help patients perform daily tasks without assistance.

What is the outlook for peripheral neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathy often goes undiagnosed. It can also be difficult to diagnose because of its variety of symptoms.

Peripheral neuropathy can cause a variety of symptoms. These symptoms can vary depending on the cause of the neuropathy.

Outlook

The outlook for peripheral neuropathy depends on the cause.

If a cause of peripheral neuropathy is a vitamin deficiency, the outlook is generally good. However, peripheral neuropathy is a common condition.

If a cause of peripheral neuropathy is autoimmune disease, the outlook is poor. Treating the autoimmune disease may slow the progression of the neuropathy.

In the case of peripheral neuropathy caused by vitamin deficiency, vitamin supplementation may be beneficial.

If peripheral neuropathy is caused by an infection, treatment may be necessary.

If peripheral neuropathy is caused by vitamin deficiency, a multivitamin can help prevent nerve damage.

If peripheral neuropathy is caused by autoimmune disease, treatment can slow the progression of the disease.

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