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A number of tests may be used to diagnose peripheral neuropathy and its underlying cause.
When you see your GP, they'll ask about your symptoms and examine the affected area of your body. This may involve testing sensation, strength and reflexes.
Some people may need to see a neurologist (a specialist in conditions affecting the nervous system) in hospital for further tests such as:
NCS and EMG are usually carried out at the same time.
Your GP can usually identify the underlying cause of a peripheral neuropathy.
If diabetes is suspected, they can usually make a confident diagnosis based on your 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 may temporarily 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:
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.
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 changes that could be a sign of certain types of peripheral neuropathy. However, nerve biopsies are rarely needed.
You may also need a scan to look for any underlying cause of your neuropathy, such as: