Neuropathy: Diagnosis & Tests

Since peripheral neuropathy has several causes, your doctor will need to determine the specific causes and where your nerve damage is located. Your doctor will want to review your medical history, family history, symptoms and toxin exposure. You also will have a physical exam and likely one or more tests, including:

Computed tomography (CT scan): Also known as a CAT scan, it takes simultaneous X-rays from several different angles to reconstruct a realistic image. In this case, your CT scan can look for herniated discs, tumors or other abnormalities.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): The MRI machine moves along the body using magnetic waves to take images, which generate a two-dimensional or three-dimensional image that can be viewed as a series of cross-sections. It does not involve radiation exposure. It can look for herniated discs, tumors or other abnormalities.

Nerve biopsy: The removal of a small portion of a nerve (usually a sensory nerve) to check for abnormalities to determine a cause.

Nerve function tests: Electromyography (EMG) is a nerve function test that records electrical activity in your muscles to determine if symptoms are being caused by muscle damage or nerve damage.

Neurological examination: Your doctor may check your muscle strength, reflexes and tone, your ability to feel various sensations, your coordination and posture. Part of this exam may include a nerve conduction study to check your motor and sensory nerves. A probe is used to send electrical signals to your nerves. An electrode then records the nerve’s response to these signals.

Skin biopsy: A small amount of skin is removed to look at the number of nerve endings. A reduced number of nerve endings would indicate neuropathy.

Other tests: An autonomic reflex screen records how your autonomic nerve fibers work. Sensory tests record your responses to temperatures and vibrations. A sweat test records how you sweat.

Lisa Cantkier, CHN is a certified holistic nutritionist and a health and wellness editor.

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