What Does Idiopathic Peripheral Neuropathy Mean?

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Question: Hi. I'm Janice. I have peripheral neuropathy, but the doctor says it's idiopathic. What does that mean?

Answer: Janice, that is a great question. What idiopathic neuropathy really means is that your doctor and me have no idea why you have pain, or why you have neuropathy. Idiopathic means that there's no explanation for it that we can measure. Doesn't mean it's not real; doesn't mean that you really do not have this neuropathy. Keep in mind that there are 50 or so different conditions that we know of that can cause damage to your nerves, that can cause a neuropathy or a dysfunction of your nervous system so that it doesn't work right. Not all neuropathy is painful. For instance, diabetic neuropathy, oh about 30 percent of patients have pain from their neuropathy. High blood sugars somehow damage the nerves -- we don't completely understand. Idiopathic neuropathy means that something has happened to your little peripheral nerves -- that they're not working right, and we just don't know the answer. You're feeling a real pain, or numbness, or tingling, or whatever you may be feeling, but we don't have an explanation for it, and it's rather common.

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