Also known as multiple neuritis, peripheral neuropathy, and polyneuritis, peripheral neuritis is the degeneration of peripheral nerves. The peripheral nervous system communicates messages from the central nervous system to the rest of the body, innervating the internal organs, muscles, skin, and other areas. Damage to the nerves impairs this communication. Symptoms depend on the type of nerves affected:
sensory nerve fibers: Damage to sensory fibers, which transmit sensory information from the affected area to the brain and spinal cord, results in changes in sensation. These changes range from perception of abnormal sensations and pain to decreased sensation, lack of sensation, or an inability to determine joint position sense. Sensations usually begin distally and progress toward the center of the body.
motor nerve fibers: Impaired nervous stimulation due to damage of motor never fibers, which transmit impulses from the brain and spinal cord to the affected area, results in weakness, decreased movement, or decreased control of movement. Structural changes occur in muscle, bone, skin, hair, nails, and body organs due to lack of nervous stimulation, disuse of the affected area, immobility, or lack of weight bearing. Muscle weakness and wasting occur.
both sensory and motor: Repeated, unnoticed injury to the area occurs due to the inability to feel, causing further injury. This can result in infection or structural damage. Changes include ulcer formation, poor healing, loss of tissue mass, scarring, and deformity.
This syndrome is associated with a noninflammatory degeneration of the axon and myelin sheaths.
Although peripheral neuritis can occur at any age, it’s most common in men between the ages of 30 and 50. Because onset is usually insidious, patients may compensate by overusing unaffected muscles; however, onset is rapid with severe infection. A manifestation of many conditions, peripheral neuritis also can cause damage to the peripheral nerves.