Peripheral neuropathy describes the symptoms one experiences as a result of damage to nerves in the peripheral nervous system (PNS). The PNS comprises of the somatic and autonomic nervous systems. The latter is responsible for controlling the smooth muscles of the internal organs as well as glands, whereas the former controls signals sent to the central nervous system and motor nerve fibers. Peripheral neuropathy can be attributed to by various factors including the effect of some chemotherapy drugs and conditions such as diabetes, alcoholism, and severe malnutrition. Individuals with peripheral neuropathy are likely to have symptoms of numbness or tingling sensation of the hands and legs, loss of sensation and feeling in some parts of the body and bowel movement problems to name a few. There’s no ‘one-fits-all’ treatment plan since different patients may have been affected differently by the condition.
How Long Will It Take To Recover From Peripheral Neuropathy?
The best way to manage peripheral neuropathy and offer relief is through treating the underlying disease. For example, if diabetes is the cause, then there should be measures to control the blood sugar level. This can be done by taking medication, a good diet, and exercise. In the case of alcoholism, then the individual should reduce their alcohol intake or rather, abstain completely. For patients with peripheral neuropathy as a side effect of cancer treatment through chemotherapy, then treatment plans to manage the side effects of chemo should be considered.
When nerves are damaged, it takes time for them to heal. The affected nerves will try to repair themselves and from the time the nerve fibers (axons) begin to grow again, it is indefinite how long it will take to recover. Needless say, the extent to which your nerve(s) will recover is variate, and it never is complete, meaning the nerves don’t fully get repaired. The period nerves take to regenerate depends on how seriously the nerve(s) was damaged and the type of injury that you sustained. If your nerve is bruised or traumatized but is not cut, it should recover over 6-12 weeks. A nerve that is cut will grow at 1mm per day and after about a 4-week period of ‘rest’ following injury, you may start to notice continued improvement over the next months. If sensory nerves are affected, they may take a longer time period, even years, to recover compared to motor nerves. Regardless, motor nerves have a healing time period, which is between 18-24 months, whereby if healing has not occurred by then, it dies away.
How Long Does The Symptoms Last?
As earlier mentioned, peripheral neuropathy interferes with peripheral nerves, which are responsible for various bodily function including motor control, and sensations. Due to the interference with the communication between the nerves and brain, an individual may experience problems such as weakness, pain, imbalance, or numbness. These symptoms may farther interfere with the quality of life with regards to doing daily activities you’re accustomed to as well as legs and hands movement problems. The duration of symptoms is dependent on the duration of the disease and treatment, and how the treatment works in alleviating symptoms. Symptoms may start abruptly, but with the right treatment, they will resolve over time provided there are no other factors worsening the condition thus worsening the symptoms.
Some of the symptoms you are likely to experience include;
- Numbness or tingling sensation in your arms and legs, which feels like “pins and needles“.
- Tripping, falling or pain when walking
- Difficulty lifting up your foot and toes
- Difficulty picking up or holding objects in your hands and using buttons.
- Cold feeling in arms and legs
- Increased sensitivity to hot and cold things
- Numbness around mouth
- Loss of sensation to touch
- Loss of positional sense i.e. knowing where a body part is without looking 
Recovery from peripheral neuropathy depends on the extent of damage the nerves have been subjected to. If the nerve injury is not serious, it may a few weeks to recover, but if the injury is very serious, it may even take years to recover. For patients with underlying conditions such as cancer and diabetes, treating these conditions can help improve the condition and enhance healing.