Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy

Symptoms depend on which nerve is involved, the cause of the condition, and the length of time the neuropathy has been present. Major symptoms may include any of the following:

  • Weakness
  • Pain
  • Muscle loss
  • Loss of feeling in a particular area
  • Loss of or reduced reflex responses
  • Burning sensation along the route of a nerve in the body
  • Tingling sensation in the hands, feet, or other parts of the body
  • Sharp, shooting pain
  • Hearing loss
  • Problems with balance
  • Difficulty picking up objects

These symptoms can build over time. Some people don’t notice them until they have had several chemotherapy treatments.

Causes of Peripheral Neuropathy

In people with cancer, peripheral neuropathy is usually caused by damage to nerves from surgery, radiation treatment, or chemotherapy. It can also be caused by a tumor pressing on or penetrating a nerve, or an infection that affects the nerves, such as shingles. Excess alcohol use or chronic health problems such as diabetes can cause or contribute to neuropathy as well. Many factors impact the degree to which someone experiences neuropathy including:

  • The type of chemotherapy drug or combination of drugs used
  • The chemotherapy dosage
  • The way the chemotherapy is delivered (i.e. intravenously or subcutaneously)
  • The overall length of the treatment regimen
  • The presence of contributing factors such as diabetes or vitamin deficiencies
  • In addition, each person responds differently to chemotherapy.