Dr Jenny L. Andrus, MD an Interventional Pain Management specialist with Orthopaedic & Spine Center, shares her insight into the diagnosis of Peripheral Neuropathy
In my last blog post, I explained the causes for and the symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy (PN). In my post today, I will outline how PN is diagnosed and discuss some of the more common tests that are used to correctly diagnose and differentiate this condition.
How is peripheral neuropathy diagnosed?
When I see a patient in the office for pain from peripheral neuropathy, I usually complete the following:
- A Patient history, including your symptoms, work environment, social habits, exposure to any toxins, potential infections, and family history of neurological disease
- A neurological examination to check your tendon reflexes, muscle strength and tone, ability to feel certain sensations, posture, and coordination.
- Related tests may reveal the presence of a systemic disease causing nerve damage. Blood tests can detect diabetes, vitamin deficiencies, liver or kidney dysfunction, other metabolic disorders, and signs of abnormal immune system activity.
Based on the results of the neurological exam, physical exam, patient history, and any previous screening or testing, additional testing may be ordered to help determine the nature and extent of the neuropathy. Additional tests may include:
- Nerve Function Tests – This test gives your doctor information about the cause and severity of your peripheral neuropathy. Electromyography (EMG) involves inserting a fine needle into a muscle to evaluate for certain types of nerve damage. Nerve conduction velocity (NCV) tests assess how our nerves and muscles respond to small electrical stimuli, generated by a probe and measured by an electrode along the nerve’s pathway.
- Imaging Tests – CT scans and MRIs may be ordered if there is concern that a nerve may be pinched causing the neuropathy symptoms. These tests are not always necessary but can help rule out other causes of your symptoms.
- Nerve or skin biopsy – These tests involve removing and examining a sample of tissue for abnormalities. These are not typically necessary.
In my next blog entry, I will discuss the different treatment options that exist for people who suffer with Peripheral Neuropathy and how they can find the best treatment working in partnership with their Pain Management Physician.