Diagnosis of Polyneuropathy


Polyneuropathy is a blanket term that refers to damage to nerves that produces uncomfortable or even painful symptoms, such as burning, tingling, or numbness. The diagnosis of polyneuropathy, however, is not quite as simple as assigning this term to the symptoms one might experience. A person who believes he is experiencing polyneuropathy may encounter the following situations whilst seeking a diagnosis.

  • Provide a complete medical history – Knowing the details of your symptoms, family history, lifestyle, exposure to toxins/drugs/alcohol, and personal medical history will help your doctor determine your risk for certain neuropathies.

  • Neurological examination – Your doctor may perform an examination paying special attention to reflexes of tendons, muscle strength, posture, coordination, and response to certain stimuli, or may refer to you to a neurologist for a more detailed examination.

  • Specialized tests – Specific tests may reveal vital information about possible neurological conditions, including polyneuropathies. Some of these tests may include:

    • Imaging Tests – CT scans or MRIs may identify herniated disks, tumors, or other possible structural causes of neuropathy.

    • Nerve Function Tests – Electromyography is a type of nerve function test that records electrical activity in the muscles, which may help determine if symptoms are caused by damage to the muscles or nerves. Other tests may study reflexes, how the patient sweats, or how the patient experiences temperature, touch, or vibrations.

    • Biopsy – Removing a small piece of nerve or of skin may allow for your doctor to examine it more closely in order to determine the extent of nerve damage, or if damage exists at all.

Once neuropathy is diagnosed, your doctor can help you determine the best course of action. The primary goals of treatment are to relieve symptoms and manage the condition causing the neuropathy. Treatments may include medications, therapies, or in extreme situations, surgery.


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