Have numbness, pain or muscle weakness? Guidelines identify best tests for neuropathy

Dec 03, 2008

New guidelines developed by the American Academy of Neurology find a combination of blood tests and other specialized assessments appear to be the most helpful tests for finding the cause of neuropathy. Also known as neuritis or distal symmetric polyneuropathy, this common nerve problem affects people of all ages. The guidelines are published in the December 3, 2008, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Neuropathy affects one in 50 people in the general population and one in 12 over the age of 55. It usually causes numbness, tingling or pain, often starting in the feet and moving to the hands. Symptoms spread slowly and evenly up the legs and arms. Muscle wasting and weakness can also occur. Neuropathy takes many forms and has many causes. The most common cause is diabetes. Other common causes are heredity, alcohol abuse, poor nutrition and autoimmune processes. Not all of the causes are known.

"There are many people with a neuropathy who have been walking around for years without having been diagnosed and treated," said guidelines author John D. England, MD, Chairman of the Department of Neurology at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans and Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology. "Both neurologists and people with neuropathy need to know that the appropriate choice of tests is critical to accurate diagnosis."

To develop the guidelines, the authors analyzed all available scientific studies on the topic.

The guidelines recommend that doctors obtain certain blood tests for all patients with numb, painful feet. "People with suspected nerve problems should talk to their doctors about screening tests, especially blood glucose, vitamin B12 level and serum protein levels, since these tests can often point to common causes of neuropathy," said England. The guidelines recommend tailored genetic testing for accurately diagnosing certain neuropathies that run in families.

The guidelines further recommend that doctors consider a combination of specialized tests to accurately evaluate neuropathies with autonomic dysfunction. These tests, known as autonomic tests, measure the action of the tiny nerves that control such functions as sweating, heart rate and blood pressure. Skin biopsy may also be useful to diagnose loss of tiny nerve fibers in the skin.

Source: American Academy of Neurology

Explore further: Experimental Ebola drug ZMapp begins clinical trials in Liberia

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New remediation guidelines for petroleum contamination

Feb 09, 2015

New industry advice that will place Australia at the global cutting edge in the clean-up of petroleum-based contaminants in groundwater was today released by the Cooperative Research Centre for Contamination Assessment and ...

Using less fish to test chemicals safety

Jan 22, 2015

The JRC has released a new strategy on how to replace, reduce and refine the use of fish in testing of chemicals' effect on flora and fauna in water (aquatic toxicity) and chemicals' uptake and concentration ...

Keeping hackers out of hospitals

Jan 07, 2015

The humble infusion pump: It stands sentinel in the hospital room, injecting patients with measured doses of drugs and writing information to their electronic medical records.

Wind-powered freighters

Jan 06, 2015

To make ships more eco-efficient, engineers have been working with alternative fuels. A Norwegian engineer is currently pursuing a new approach: With VindskipTM, he has designed a cargo ship that is powered ...

Recommended for you

Listeria screening in public lavatories in Vienna

3 hours ago

Vienna's public lavatories were at the focus of a study by the Global Food Safety research group at the Vetmeduni Vienna. The researchers studied 224 public restrooms in Vienna, which are about 91 percent ...

African leaders urge Ebola 'Marshall Plan'

3 hours ago

Leaders of the west African countries worst hit by Ebola urged the world on Tuesday to back a "Marshall Plan" to help them stamp out the disease and rebuild their shattered economies.

Women with endometriosis need support, not judgement

5 hours ago

Known for years as the "career woman's disease" based on the idea that women without children develop disease in their reproductive organs, endometriosis is a painful condition thought to affect one in ten wome ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.