A number of testsmay be used to diagnose peripheral neuropathy andits underlying cause.

When you see your GP,they'llask about your symptoms and examine the affected area of your body. This may involve testing sensation, strength and reflexes.

Your doctor mayalso arrange blood tests, especially to check forcauses such as diabetes or Vitamin B12 or folate deficiency anaemia .

Confirming if you have a neuropathy

Some people may need to see a neurologist (a specialist in conditions affecting the nervous system)in hospital for further tests such as:

  • a nerve conduction test (NCS)wheresmall metal wires called electrodes are placed on your skin which release tiny electric shocks that stimulate your nerves; the speed and strength of the nerve signal is measured
  • electromyography(EMG)where a small needle is inserted through your skin into your muscle and used to measure the electrical activity of your muscles

NCS and EMGare usually carried out at the same time.

Identifying the cause of a neuropathy

Your GP can usually identify the underlying cause of a peripheral neuropathy.

If diabetes is suspected, they can usually make a confident diagnosis based onyour symptoms, a physical examination and checking the levels of glucose in your blood and urine.

If you're taking a medication known to cause peripheral neuropathy, your GP maytemporarily stop or reduce your dose to see whether your symptoms improve.

If the cause is uncertain, you may be referred to a neurologist for more extensive blood tests to check:

  • whether you have a rare acquired cause that may be responsible
  • whether you have a genetic abnormality, such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease

You may need a lumbar puncture to test the cerebrospinal fluid (a clear, colourless fluid that surrounds and supports the brain and spinal cord) for inflammation.

Further tests

Occasionally, a nerve biopsy may be carried out as part of your diagnosis. This is a minor surgical procedure where a small sample of a peripheral nerve is removed from near your ankle so it can be examined under a microscope.

It's then checked for changesthat could be a sign of certain types of peripheral neuropathy. However, nerve biopsies are rarely needed.

You may also needa scan to look for any underlying cause of your neuropathy, such as:

  • an X-ray
  • a computerised tomography (CT) scan
  • a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 28 Nov 2016