Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Dr. Paul Donohue

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Dr. Paul Donohue

Article excerpt

Dear Dr. Donohue: My mother has been suffering from peripheral neuropathy for 10 years. It is progressing from her feet upward. The cause has not been found, although they've ruled out things such as diabetes. Can you shed some light on this terrible disease?

It should help us all to define a term or two here.

"Peripheral neuropathy" refers to nerve disturbance in what we might call "suburban" areas of the body, the far-flung neural networks clearly peripheral to centralized areas of dense nerve concentrations, such as the brain and spinal cord. The arms, legs and skin in general are examples of peripheral areas.

The sensory nerves work by collecting messages of pain or pleasure whenever we feel, touch or sense things, then routing them back to the brain. The motor nerves carry nerve signals from the brain out to muscles, activating them as required in movement.

With that in mind, you can understand why peripheral neuropathy might involve a mix-up of incoming brain messages of pain or pleasure, or a failure of muscles to respond to outgoing brain motor messages. And peripheral neuropathy can in fact affect either of those one-way neural streets.

We are often left with the task of ferreting out the known causes of the nerve disturbances. They include diabetes, which has, in fact, been considered in your case.

However, that is merely scratching the surface. …

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