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Polyneuropathy, also called neuropathy, is a condition that affects the peripheral nervous system, i.e. the nerves from the brain and spinal cord (both of them constituting the central nervous system). It usually affects the longest nerves and causes sensory and motor disturbances in the zones innervated by the nerves. Polyneuritis may be due to several factors, the main ones being the evolution of diabetes, chronic alcohol intoxication, and some medications, particularly during chemotherapy. Rarer causes concern other toxic substances, infections, and certain hereditary diseases. The evolution of polyneuropathy is generally slow.


The symptoms of polyneuropathy are of an insidious and progressive onset, usually affecting both limbs, especially the lower, symmetrically but more towards the ends:
  • tingling grouped under the term paresthesia;
  • a burning sensation;
  • a decrease in sensitivity;
  • muscle pain;
  • muscle atrophy.


The diagnosis of polyneuropathy is made through a neurological examination assessing the overall strength of limbs and sensitivity in the affected zones. Sometimes a nerve biopsy will be performed as well as an electromyogram to measure nerve conduction velocity and response time of the various organs.


There are as many treatments as causes of polyneuropathy. In the case of a chemotherapy treatment, it will be a balancing dose of treatment. In the case of diabetes, good control of the disease will limit the development in the peripheral nerve. Ethyl withdrawal will be recommended in cases of intoxication due to alcohol, as well as stopping other potentially toxic causes. If it is a dietary deficiency, a treatment of vitamins B1 may be prescribed to the patient.


Some causes of polyneuropathy can be avoided such as alcohol. It is therefore essential to moderate its consumption and maintain a balanced diet. It is also strongly recommended to avoid manipulating and to protect oneself from toxic materials.

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