Peripheral Neuropathy

A. Definition
Peripheral neuropathy is disorder of nerves, apart from the brain and spinal cord. It often causes weakness, numbness, and pain, usually in your hands and feet, but also may occur in other areas of your body. It can impair sensation, movement, gland or organ function, or other aspects of health, depending on the type of nerve affected. Often, symptoms are symmetrical and involve both hands and feet. Peripheral neuropathy can result from problems such as traumatic injuries, infections, metabolic problems, exposure to toxins, or the excessive use of alcohol. One of the most common causes is diabetes.

B. General information
Peripheral neuropathy can involve different nerve types, including motor, sensory, and autonomic nerves. It can be categorized by the size of the nerve fibers involved, large or small. People generally describe the pain of peripheral neuropathy as tingling or burning, while they may compare the loss of sensation to the feeling of wearing a thin stocking or glove. Essentially any peripheral nerve can become entrapped and cause the signs and symptoms of neuropathy. The most commonly involved peripheral nerve is the median nerve at the wrist, as in carpal tunnel syndrome. A number of medications are used to reduce the painful symptoms of peripheral neuropathy. In many cases, symptoms improve with time, especially if the condition is caused by an underlying condition that can be treated. In other cases, peripheral neuropathy can cause chronic, debilitating pain.

C. Social Security Medical Listing 11.14 – Peripheral Neuropathy
Social Security recognizes that peripheral neuropathy can be severe enough to preclude the ability to perform substantial gainful activity for a year or longer. In short, peripheral neuropathy is considered disabling if significant and persistent disorganization of motor function is present in two extremities, resulting in sustained disturbance of gross and dexterous movements, or gait and station, despite prescribed treatment.

“Persistent disorganization of motor function” is defined by Social Security as paresis or paralysis, tremor or other involuntary movements, ataxia and sensory disturbances (any or all of which may be due to cerebral, cerebellar, brain stem, spinal cord, or peripheral nerve dysfunction) which occur singly or in various combinations, frequently provides the sole or partial basis for decision in cases of neurological impairment. The assessment of your impairment will depend on the degree of interference with your locomotion and/or interference with the use of your fingers, hands and arms.

Your representative can help you determine whether your peripheral neuropathy is severe enough for you to qualify for Social Security Administration disability benefits.