Peripheral Neuropathy and Parkinson's: The Connection
Last updated: April 2023
People with Parkinson's disease (PD) can sometimes have problems with their hands and feet, including weakness, numbness, and pain.1
Those with this discomfort might be unsure whether these are signs of PD or something else. Studies have been done to determine whether peripheral neuropathy (PN) is more common among people with PD. Peripheral neuropathy is common in the general population. That makes it harder to know if it is more common among people with PD.1
What is the peripheral nervous system?
The peripheral nervous system is the part of the nervous system that is outside the brain and spinal cord. Peripheral nerves carry messages to and from the central nervous system, which is made up of the brain and spinal cord.1
The peripheral nervous system has different types of nerves:1
- Autonomic nerves control things that happen in our body without us thinking about them. This includes breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, and digestion.
- Motor nerves control muscle movement and contraction.
- Sensory nerves send information about what is being felt in the body, like pain, temperature, and touch.
What is peripheral neuropathy?
Peripheral neuropathy is a condition that occurs when there is damage to the nerves of the peripheral nervous system. This damage can cause weakness, numbness, tingling, and pain in the affected area.2
PN can be caused by a number of things, including diabetes, physical injury, certain medicines, vitamin B deficiencies, and infections. PN is most commonly seen in adults over the age of 50.2,3
Symptoms of PN
Peripheral neuropathy can cause a wide range of symptoms, depending on the nerves affected and how severe the neuropathy is. The most common place to feel symptoms is in your hands and feet. These symptoms include:2,3
- Numbness and tingling
- Burning sensations
- Lack of coordination
In some cases, certain types of PN can lead to more severe problems such as muscle weakness or paralysis. It can also cause issues with the autonomic nervous system, which may lead to problems regulating blood pressure or digestion.3
What is the link between PD and PD?
Researchers have looked at the link between PD and PN. But the studies that have been done report mixed results. This may be because the studies:1
- Defined symptoms of PN differently
- Used different methods to find causes of PN
- Included people that had other conditions which could cause PN (like diabetes or vitamin deficiencies)
Several studies have looked at whether use of the PD drug levodopa may lead to PN. Some have shown that the drug increases the risk of developing PN. However, other studies did not find this. These mixed results are confusing to both those with PD and researchers.1
There may be a link between PD and PN when a person has a vitamin B12 deficiency. Taking levodopa may increase the risk of developing peripheral neuropathy if this vitamin level is low. Many doctors will check your B12 level if you have PD. You may need to take a B12 vitamin supplement.1
What does this mean?
More research is needed to confirm a link between PD and PN. If you have PD and have symptoms of PN, talk to your doctor. While there is no cure for either PD or PN, treatments are available to help with your symptoms. These usually include:4
- Nerve pain drugs such as certain antidepressants and anticonvulsants
- Physical therapy
- Lifestyle changes
If you have peripheral neuropathy, it is important to work with your doctor to find a treatment plan that works for you. With the proper treatment, you can improve your quality of life and manage your symptoms.
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