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.


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