Some neuropathies come on suddenly; others develop gradually over many years. The symptoms depend on the type of nerves affected and the location of the nerve. Most people’s symptoms start with tingling, weakness, numbness, and/or pain in the feet, hands, arms and legs.
Most symptoms occur in the “stocking and glove” areas
Here are some of the telltale signs people describe:
Usually caused by damage to the motor nerves (connected to the muscles), foot symptoms include the foot dropping or lagging behind, while leg symptoms include difficulty walking or running, “heaviness” – it takes most of your strength just to climb the stairs – and stumbling or tiring easily. Muscle cramps may be common. In the arms, difficulties with carrying a load of groceries, opening jars, turning door knobs, or combing your hair. Or you may be frustrated to find you keep dropping things you thought you had a good grip on.
Numbness, tingling, burning and pain.
The sensory nerves (connected to the skin), when damaged, can cause many different symptoms. Early on, you may have spontaneous sensations (called paresthesias), which include numbness, tingling, pins and needles, prickling, burning, cold, pinching, sharp, deep stabs, electric shocks, or buzzing. They are usually worse at night and are often painful and severe, or you may have unpleasant, abnormal sensations brought on by touching or other stimuli (dysesthesias). Or instead, you have a lessening or absence of sensation, which can cause you to burn or cut yourself and not know it (anesthesia)
Absence of Proprioception (Position Sense).
When you have this symptom, you’re probably not sure just where your feet are and may thus be uncoordinated and unsteady when you walk. Or you may realize that the way you walk has changed but are not sure exactly how or why. Chances are you have widened your gait in an unconscious effort to keep your balance, or that you tend to drag your feet.
“Glove and Stocking Sensation.”
This is what doctors call the odd feeling you may have that you’re wearing stockings or gloves or slippers when, in fact, your hands and feet are completely bare.
Damage to the autonomic nerves can cause difficulty breathing, heart problems, dizziness when standing up, constipation, bladder dysfunction, diarrhea, sexual dysfunction, reduced or inability to sweat, and/or thinning of the skin, with easy bruising and poor healing.