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Aust Fam Physician. 2015 Mar;44(3):92-5.

Paraesthesia and peripheral neuropathy.

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MBBS, MD, FRCP, FRACGP, FACLM, B LegS, Consultant Neurologist, Conjoint Associate Professor of Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW; Professor, School of Medicine, Griffith University, Gold Coast, QLD.



Paraesthesia reflects an abnormality affecting the sensory pathways anywhere between the peripheral sensory nervous system and the sensory cortex. As with all neurology, the fundamental diagnostic tool is a concise history, devoid of potentially ambiguous jargon, which properly reflects the true nature of what the patient is experiencing, provocateurs, precipitating and relieving factors, concomitant illnesses, such as diabetes, and any treatments that could evoke neuropathies.


Some localised neuropathies, such as carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) or ulnar neuropathy, produce classical features, such as weakness of the 'LOAF' (lateral two lumbricals, opponens pollicis, abductor pollicis brevis and flexor pollicis brevis) median innervated muscles, thereby obviating need for further neurophysiology. Nerve conduction studies may be necessary to diagnose peripheral neuropathy, but they may also be normal with small fibre neuropathy. Even with a diagnosis of peripheral neuropathy, definition of the underlying cause may remain elusive in a significant proportion of cases, despite involvement of consultants.


Treatment is based on the relevant diagnosis and mechanism to address the cause. This includes better glycaemic control for diabetes, night splint for CTS or elbow padding for ulnar neuropathy, modifying lifestyle with reduced alcohol consumption or replacing dietary deficiencies or changing medications where appropriate and practical. Should such intervention fail to relieve symptoms, consideration of intervention to relieve symptoms of neuropathic pain may be required.

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