Only 7 percent of adult Americans and 22 percent of people with diabetes know what peripheral neuropathy is. Additionally, 15 million nondiabetic adult Americans may be suffering from peripheral neuropathy and not even know it.
According to a Roper Starch Worldwide national survey, sponsored by Genentech Inc., few respondents were able to describe peripheral neuropathy, while the large majority responded that they did not know what it was at all. Many respondents described it as vision problems, which is incorrect.
Peripheral neuropathy is a condition that affects the sensory and motor nerve cells of the peripheral nervous system. These are the nerves that receive stimulation from outside the body. A person with peripheral neuropathy usually experiences muscle weakness and pain. Symptoms include numbness or tingling in the hands, legs and feet. Peripheral neuropathy most commonly occurs in people with diabetes, and can be a painful and debilitating condition that affects a person’s quality of life.
“The results of this survey really point to a critical lack of education about peripheral neuropathy among both people with diabetes and nondiabetic adults” says Norman Latov, MD, PhD, director of the neuropathy clinic at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City. “We hope that releasing the results of this study will help shed light on this silent disease and encourage people to recognize symptoms and consult with their physicians.”
According to the survey, 33 percent of the respondents with diabetes have experienced symptoms of neuropathy, while 7.5 percent of the nondiabetic respondents have experienced the symptoms for six months or longer. More than 50 percent of the respondents say they would like to learn more about peripheral neuropathy.