What is it?

Neuropathy is damage to nerves that causes pain, numbness and/or tingling. While, technically, many conditions are a form of neuropathy, most people tend to think of peripheral neuropathy when using the term ‘neuropathy.’ 


Peripheral neuropathy is nerve damage in the peripheral nerves. It usually starts in the hands or feet as numbness or tingling. Over time, these symptoms can progress to pain. Patients most often describe the pain as a burning type of pain.  


The most common cause of peripheral neuropathy is diabetes. It is then commonly referred to as diabetic neuropathy. Other causes can be kidney disease, HIV, or alcohol dependence. It can also occur for unknown reasons.  In the latter case, it is called ‘idiopathic peripheral neuropathy.’


Is there a cure?

Conventional wisdom is that, if the primary disease that causes the neuropathy is cured or controlled early, the neuropathy can be reversed. So, if the neuropathy is due to diabetes, kidney disease, HIV, or alcohol dependence, rigorous treatment of these conditions is necessary. However, neuropathy is often permanent.


Once it becomes chronic, treatment is focused on managing the symptoms, rather than attempting to cure it.


Therapies & Procedures

Common symptom management therapies include antidepressant medications, anticonvulsant medications, opioid medications, mild aerobic exercise, cognitive behavioral therapy, and chronic pain rehabilitation programs.



Murray J. McAllister, PsyD, is the executive director of the Institute for Chronic Pain. The Institute for Chronic Pain is an educational and public policy think tank. Its purpose is to bring together thought leaders from around the world in the field of chronic pain rehabilitation and provide academic-quality information that is also approachable to all the stakeholders in the field: patients, their families, generalist healthcare providers, third party payers, and public policy analysts. Its aim is to change the culture of how chronic pain is managed through education and consultation efforts that advocate for the use of empirically supported conceptualizations and treatments of chronic pain. He also blogs at the Institute for Chronic Pain Blog.

Last Updated on Friday, 23 October 2015 15:39

Published on Friday, 27 April 2012 13:40

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