Sensorimotor polyneuropathy is a condition that causes a decreased ability to move or feel (sensation) because of nerve damage.
Neuropathy means a disease of, or damage to nerves. When it occurs outside of the brain or spinal cord, it is called a peripheral neuropathy. Mononeuropathy means one nerve is involved. Polyneuropathy means that many nerves in different parts of the body are involved.
Neuropathy can affect nerves that provide feeling (sensory neuropathy) or cause movement (motor neuropathy). It can also affect both, in which case it is called a sensorimotor neuropathy.
Sensorimotor polyneuropathy is a body-wide (systemic) process that damages nerve cells, nerve fibers (axons), and nerve coverings (myelin sheath). Damage to the covering of the nerve cell causes nerve signals to slow down. Damage to the nerve fiber or entire nerve cell can make the nerve stop working. Some neuropathies develop over years, while others can start and get severe within days.
Nerve damage can be caused by:
Some diseases lead to polyneuropathy that is mainly sensory or mainly motor. Possible causes of sensorimotor polyneuropathy include:
Symptoms may develop quickly (as in Guillain-Barre syndrome) or slowly over weeks to years. Symptoms usually occur on both sides of the body. Most often, they start at the ends of the toes first.
An exam may show:
Tests may include:
Goals of treatment include:
Depending on the cause, treatment may include:
PROMOTING SELF-CARE AND INDEPENDENCE
CONTROL OF SYMPTOMS
Safety is important for people with neuropathy. Lack of muscle control and decreased sensation can increase the risk of falls or other injuries.
If you have movement difficulties, these measures can help keep you safe:
Other tips include:
Medicines used to treat this condition:
Avoid pain medicine whenever possible, or use it only when necessary. Keeping your body in the proper position or keeping bed linens off a tender body part may help control pain.
For additional information and support, see: www.neuropathy.org.
In some cases, you can fully recover from peripheral neuropathy if your health care provider can find the cause and successfully treat it, and if the damage does not affect the entire nerve cell.
The amount of disability varies. Some people have no disability. Others have partial or complete loss of movement, function, or feeling. Nerve pain may be uncomfortable and may last for a long time.
Occasionally, sensorimotor polyneuropathy causes severe, life-threatening symptoms.
Call your health care provider if you have loss of movement or feeling in a part of your body. Early diagnosis and treatment increase the chance of controlling the symptoms.
Polyneuropathy - sensorimotor
Katitji B, Koontz D. Disorders of the peripheral nerves. In: Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC. Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 76.
Shy ME. Peripheral neuropathies. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 428.
Updated by: Joseph V. Campellone, M.D., Division of Neurology, Cooper University Hospital, Camden, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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