How Bad Can Peripheral Neuropathy Get? And What Happens When Neuropathy Gets Worse?

Written by Mary | Last Updated on 
June 26th, 2019 at 12:45 am

Peripheral neuropathy is a condition that causes pain to flare up in your hands and feet when the nerves carrying messages from and to the brain and spinal cord to various parts of your body are damaged.

In order to understand what causes the pain, you need to know how the system works.

Your peripheral nerves form an intricate network, which connects the spinal cord and brain to the skin, muscles and internal organ.

These nerves branch out from your spinal cord in a certain pattern. They are arranged in the form of lines called dermatomes.

When a nerve is damaged, more than on dermatome is affected. The damaged can be easily traced back to a specific organ.

In the process, the communication between different parts of the body and brain is interrupted, which impairs muscle movements, causes pain and prevents you from having that normal sensation in your legs and arms.

Peripheral Neuropathy Symptoms

Peripheral neuropathy is most common in the patients of diabetes. As the blood sugar level in the body increases, the pain level increases too. Before discussing how bad the pain can get, let’s have a look at these symptoms of peripheral neuropathy:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Cramps
  • Loss of bone and muscle
  • Muscle twitching
  • Changes in hair, skin or nails
  • Loss of feeling or sensation in body parts
  • Numbness
  • Sleep disruptions
  • Loss of balance
  • Emotional disturbances
  • Dizziness, fainting or lightheadedness because of fluctuating blood pressure
  • Trouble swallowing or eating
  • Loss of pain (might not feel limb pain or an imminent heart attack)
  • Loss of control over the bladder control, which can lead to infections
  • Diarrhea or constipation due to nerve damage caused in the digestive tract or intestines
  • Inability to sweat, which might cause heat intolerance
  • Life-threatening symptoms like irregular heartbeat or difficulty breathing

Worst Case Scenario for Peripheral Neuropathy

A woman trying to relieve her peripheral neuropathy pain by massaging her hand

The thing about neuropathy is that the pain can become worse day after day due to improper nutrition, lack of exercise, heavy medication, illness, disease, and high blood sugar level.

We have already explored all the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.

Now, if we talk about the worst case scenario then there’s a possibility that you might lose feeling in your hands and feet completely, leading to paralysis.

Keep in mind that we are talking about the “worst” case scenario. This happens usually when whatever illness you are going through persists for a long time. The good news is that even if your peripheral neuropathy reaches to a point where the nerve pain is unbearable, you can still make changes in your lifestyle to bring the pain level down.

However, some of the nerve damage will remain and there’s no knowing how your muscles will respond after therapy. This stands true particularly for people who struggle to maintain a healthy diet, alcoholics, and diabetics.

The Vicious Cycle that Makes the Pain Worse

People with peripheral neuropathy are stuck in a vicious cycle. Due to nerve deterioration, mobility is restricted. This causes the muscles to weaken and when they cramp, it becomes quite difficult to be mobile.

If the nerves continue to deteriorate, immobility will set in and they will lose feeling in the hands and legs. It always starts with aches and annoying little twitches, and eventually leads to numbness.

As the neuropathy continues to flare up, paresthesia sets in. It’s a feeling ofn constantly being poked with pins and needles. In advanced stages, the surface numbness reaches a point where if the person is cut, he or she doesn’t feel it. A wound exposed in such a condition can cause serious infections. This brings us back to the start and the cycle continues.

Neuropathy’s Effect on Three Major Organs

There’s no knowing how neuropathy affects people. It’s different for every person. For example, it’s possible that your body might not be able to regulate blood pressure properly. As a result, your balance is compromised and you become vulnerable to falls. Following are three major organs that get affected by peripheral neuropathy:

The Stomach

The stomach being damaged due to peripheral neuropathy is more of a nuisance. It can lead to loose stools and diarrhea. In severe cases, dehydration sets in makes you feel lethargic.

If you recall, we mentioned above that immobility causes the muscles to weaken. Another vicious cycle starts here: if you are not active, your muscles will slowly deteriorate and at some point in your life, you will lose the ability to walk.

Digestive System

People who are the stage of “worst case of peripheral neuropathy” will experience some serious problems such as swelling of the throat and digestive tract. After a while, the throat closes and becomes numb, which makes it quite difficult to eat.

It’s possible that if you try to force down food, you might choke. Without any nutrition, your weight falls and your immune system weakens, making you vulnerable to infections such as the common cold.

The Heart

From panic attacks to irregular heartbeat and difficulty in breathing, all these problems occur when the nerve connecting to the heart is damaged. Sometimes, a panic attack is so much more and can lead to lethal consequences. If you are at a stage where your peripheral neuropathy causes unbearable pain, every little symptom must be checked by a doctor.


When peripheral neuropathy becomes worse, some of the damage is hard to reverse. It’s possible that you might never regain full feeling in your hands and feet. This is why it is important to maintain a proper diet, do exercise regularly and take your supplements.

You will find plenty of nerve supplements on the market that can help you reduce the pain such as Nerve Renew, Nervestra, Nerve Aid and Nerve Factor. Until you make some big changes in your lifestyle, you are on the road to making your peripheral neuropathy worse.