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Pepsi: Life is a Nerve Disorder

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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This post is part of a collaborative narrative series composed of my writing and Chris Arnade’s photos exploring issues of addiction, poverty, prostitution and urban anthropology in Hunts Point, Bronx. For more on the series, look here.


Peripheral neuropathy
Peripheral neuritis; Neuropathy – peripheral; Neuritis – peripheral; Nerve disease
Last reviewed: August 26, 2012.

Peripheral nerves carry information to and from the brain. They also carry signals to and from the spinal cord to the rest of the body.
Peripheral neuropathy means these nerves don’t work properly. Peripheral neuropathy may be damage to a single nerve. It may be damage to a nerve group. It may also affect nerves in the whole body.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Diabetes is the most common cause of this type of nerve problem. High blood sugar levels over a long time can damage your nerves.

Other health conditions that may cause neuropathy are:

•Autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus
•Chronic kidney disease
•Liver infections
•Low levels of vitamin B12
•Metabolic disease
•Poisoning due to heavy metals, such as lead
•Poor blood flow to the legs
•Underactive thyroid gland


Symptoms depend on the nerve that is damaged. Symptoms also depend on whether the damage affects one nerve, several nerves, or the whole body.


Tingling or burning in the arms and legs may be an early sign of nerve damage. These feelings often start in your toes and feet. You may have deep pain. This often happens in the feet and legs.

You may lose feeling in your legs and arms. Because of this, you may not notice when you step on something sharp. You may not notice when touch something that is too hot or cold, like the water in a bathtub. You may not know when you have a small blister or sore on your feet.


Damage to the nerves can make it harder to control muscles. It can also cause weakness. You may notice problems moving a part of your body. You may fall because your legs buckle. You may trip over your toes.

Doing tasks such as buttoning a shirt may be harder. You may also notice your muscles twitch or cramp. Your muscles may become smaller.¹


Pepsi: Hunts Point, Bronx. Courtesy of Chris Arnade.


do your hands shake
pressed against the police
squad car
in your baby phat
and kitten heels?

you are exposed for reasons
intangible and sitting pretty

for judgment:

the night you fell
hands-and-knees style
and couldn’t get up
without kid-thugs’ arms.

why bother holding your IDs,
badges of person-
hood to be treated as non-


you gave me the white plastic inmate
release, the dirty, bendy
New York State non-driver

to safe
keep. they press through
my bag, into my lap.
I always carry them in

this stupid, useless pedestrian
wallet. won’t help you now, as if
they ever could

save hands that clench
and knot to ruin,

that fat, smug Mexican
chest that keeps showing
up circling with a beige Buick
and a one-track mind

may as well resuscitate
the shiny needle,
quell this large word,
this long sentence
to go down.

For Pepsi.

More Hunts Point Addiction Writing
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Cassie Rodenberg About the Author: I write on culture, poverty, addiction, and mental illness: I explore things we like to ignore. I also teach public school in New York City's South Bronx. Follow on Twitter @cassierodenberg.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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