Polyneuropathy is defined as a neurological disorder typically characterized by the simultaneous malfunction of many peripheral nerves throughout the body. Quite often, the same nerves are affected symmetrically on both sides of the body, usually in the arms or legs. In fact, polyneuropathy is also referred to as the ‘Glove and Stocking Neuropathy’.

Polyneuropathy is termed as acute if it lasts up to 4 weeks, sub-acute if it lasts for 4 to 8 weeks or chronic if, it lasts for more than 8 weeks.

Symptoms of Polyneuropathy

Polyneuropathy is typically characterized by a symmetrical distribution of sensory motor abnormalities. Symptoms may develop gradually over a course of weeks and years and will normally develop on both sides of the body. The main symptoms are:

• Weakness in arms or legs

• Facial weakness

• Difficulty in using legs, feet, arms or hands

• Difficulty in swallowing

• Burning pain that worsens at night

• Decreased sensation

• Speech impairment

• Joint pain

• Bowl or bladder dysfunction

• Pain, burning, tingling of any part of the body

• Numbness, loss of sensation in arms and legs

• Unhealthy and shiny skin tissue

Causes of Polyneuropathy

A wide range of causes can lead to the occurrence of polyneuropathy. The main causative factors include:

• Alcoholic neuropathy

• Diabetic neuropathy

• Guillain-Barre syndrome

• Neuropathy caused by drugs

Neuropathy is a condition in which the peripheral nerves .i.e. the nerves in the body apart from the spinal cord and brain, are damaged or not working properly.

The nerve damage might also be caused by any condition that results in pressure on nerves, inflammation, decreased blood flow, connective tissue disorders and similar conditions.

Diagnostic Procedures

A diagnostic examination might show one or more of the below:

• Little or no reflexes

• Muscle weakness

• Paralysis

• Muscle twitch

• Muscle atrophy

A number of diagnostic tools are employed for the purpose. The main amongst these include:

• Blood test

• Chest X ray

• Electrodiagnostic study

Treatment of Polyneuropathy

The treatment plan of polyneuropathy is aimed at controlling the symptoms. Treatment is based on the extent and severity of symptoms. Advance forms of medication is reserved for instances where there is a difficulty to perform activities of daily routine or self-care functions.

The most common form of medications used is the corticosteroids. These may be helpful to reduce inflammation and alleviate symptoms. Other immunosuppressants may also be used.

Where painful polyneuropathy occurs, an anti-neuropathic pain drug eg: pregabalin, gabapentin may be indicated for treatment.

In addition, Plasmapheresis may also be carried out to reduce the immune response and may benefit some patients. In this procedure, the blood plasma containing antibodies is removed and replaced with intravenous fluids or donated plasma that is free of anti-bodies.

Intravenous immune globulin (IVIg) is another effective option.