Learn About Sensorimotor Polyneuropathy

What is the definition of Sensorimotor Polyneuropathy?

Sensorimotor polyneuropathy is a condition that causes a decreased ability to move and feel (sensation) because of nerve damage.

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What are the alternative names for Sensorimotor Polyneuropathy?

Polyneuropathy - sensorimotor

What are the causes of Sensorimotor Polyneuropathy?

Neuropathy means a disease of, or damage to nerves. When it occurs outside of the central nervous system (CNS), that is, the brain and spinal cord, it is called a peripheral neuropathy. Mononeuropathy means one nerve is involved. Polyneuropathy means that many nerves in different parts of the body are involved.

Neuropathy can affect nerves that provide feeling (sensory neuropathy) or cause movement (motor neuropathy). It can also affect both, in which case it is called a sensorimotor neuropathy.

Sensorimotor polyneuropathy is a bodywide (systemic) process that damages nerve cells, nerve fibers (axons), and nerve coverings (myelin sheath). Damage to the covering of the nerve cell causes nerve signals to slow or stop. Damage to the nerve fiber or entire nerve cell can make the nerve stop working. Some neuropathies develop over years, while others can start and get severe within hours to days.

Nerve damage can be caused by:

  • Autoimmune (when the body attacks itself) disorders
  • Conditions that put pressure on nerves
  • Decreased blood flow to the nerve
  • Diseases that destroy the glue (connective tissue) that holds cells and tissues together
  • Swelling (inflammation) of the nerves

Some diseases lead to polyneuropathy that is mainly sensory or mainly motor. Possible causes of sensorimotor polyneuropathy include:

  • Alcoholic neuropathy
  • Amyloid polyneuropathy
  • Autoimmune disorders, such as Sjögren syndrome
  • Cancer (called a paraneoplastic neuropathy)
  • Long-term (chronic) inflammatory neuropathy
  • Diabetic neuropathy
  • Drug-related neuropathy, including chemotherapy
  • Guillain-Barré syndrome
  • Hereditary neuropathy
  • Low thyroid
  • Parkinson disease
  • Vitamin deficiency (vitamins B12, B1, and E)
  • Zika virus infection
What are the symptoms of Sensorimotor Polyneuropathy?

Symptoms may include any of the following:

  • Decreased feeling in any area of the body
  • Difficulty swallowing or breathing
  • Difficulty using the arms or hands
  • Difficulty using the legs or feet
  • Difficulty walking
  • Pain, burning, tingling, or abnormal feeling in any area of the body (called neuralgia)
  • Weakness of the face, arms, or legs, or any area of the body
  • Occasional falls due to lack of balance and not feeling the ground under your feet

Symptoms may develop quickly (as in Guillain-Barré syndrome) or slowly over weeks to years. Symptoms usually occur on both sides of the body. Most often, they start at the ends of the toes first.

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What are the current treatments for Sensorimotor Polyneuropathy?

Goals of treatment include:

  • Finding the cause
  • Controlling the symptoms
  • Promoting a person's self-care and independence

Depending on the cause, treatment may include:

  • Changing medicines, if they are causing the problem
  • Controlling blood sugar level, when the neuropathy is from diabetes
  • Not drinking alcohol
  • Taking daily nutritional supplements
  • Medicines to treat the underlying cause of the polyneuropathy


  • Exercises and retraining to maximize function of the damaged nerves
  • Job (vocational) therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Orthopedic treatments
  • Physical therapy
  • Wheelchairs, braces, or splints


Safety is important for people with neuropathy. Lack of muscle control and decreased sensation can increase the risk of falls or other injuries.

If you have movement difficulties, these measures can help keep you safe:

  • Leave lights on.
  • Remove obstacles (such as loose rugs that may slip on the floor).
  • Test water temperature before bathing.
  • Use railings.
  • Wear protective shoes (such as those with closed toes and low heels).
  • Wear shoes that have non-slippery soles.
  • Have a therapist assess your need for an assistive device such as a cane or walker.

Other tips include:

  • Check your feet (or other affected area) daily for bruises, open skin areas, or other injuries,which you may not notice that can become infected.
  • Check the inside of shoes often for grit or rough spots that may injure your feet.
  • Visit a foot doctor (podiatrist) to assess and reduce the risk of injury to your feet.
  • Avoid leaning on your elbows, crossing your knees, or being in other positions that put prolonged pressure on certain body areas.

Medicines used to treat the symptoms of this condition:

  • Over-the-counter and prescription pain relievers to reduce stabbing pain (neuralgia)
  • Anticonvulsants or antidepressants
  • Lotions, creams, or medicated patches

Other treatments may be directed against your immune system to stop an autoimmune attack:

  • Steroids and other immunosuppressants
  • Plasma pheresis (plasma exchange)
  • Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg)

Use pain medicine only when necessary. Keeping your body in the proper position or keeping bed linens off a tender body part may help control pain.

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What are the support groups for Sensorimotor Polyneuropathy?

These groups can provide more information about neuropathy.

  • Neuropathy Action Foundation -- www.neuropathyaction.org
  • The Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy -- www.foundationforpn.org
What is the outlook (prognosis) for Sensorimotor Polyneuropathy?

In some cases, you can fully recover from peripheral neuropathy if your provider can find the cause and successfully treat it, and if the damage does not affect the entire nerve cell.

The amount of disability varies. Some people have no disability. Others have partial or complete loss of movement, function, or feeling. Nerve pain may be uncomfortable and may last for a long time.

In some cases, sensorimotor polyneuropathy causes severe, life-threatening symptoms.

What are the possible complications of Sensorimotor Polyneuropathy?

Problems that may result include:

  • Deformity
  • Injury to feet (caused by bad shoes or hot water when stepping into the bathtub)
  • Numbness
  • Pain
  • Trouble walking
  • Weakness
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing (in severe cases)
  • Falls due to lack of balance
When should I contact a medical professional for Sensorimotor Polyneuropathy?

Contact your provider if you have loss of movement or feeling in a part of your body. Early diagnosis and treatment increase the chance of controlling the symptoms.

Central nervous system and peripheral nervous system
Nervous system
What are the latest Sensorimotor Polyneuropathy Clinical Trials?
Comparative Analysis of the Autonomic Profile Between Patients With Hereditary Amyloidotic Cardiomyopathy Caused by Transthyretin and Patients With Transthyretin Gene Mutation, Without Cardiomyopathy

Summary: Transthyretin amyloidosis exhibits a variety of possible phenotypes, the hereditary neurological form being the most commonly found and studied (familial amyloidotic polyneuropathy or FAP), which can present from oligosymptomatic patients to patients with peripheral sensorimotor polyneuropathy of varying degrees and dysautonomia. Although a specific mutation usually causes a specific phenotype, th...

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n-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids to Prevent and Treat Diabetic Neuropathy

Summary: Sensorimotor neuropathy (SMN) and cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy (CAN) are the most common complications of type 2 diabetes (T2D). SMN affects 30% of people with T2D and CAN 20%. SMN causes pain, impairs and limits physical activity, and increases the risk for physical disability, complications (such as foot ulcerations), and premature mortality. Moreover, both motor and sensory nerve functio...

What are the Latest Advances for Sensorimotor Polyneuropathy?
High-intensity interval training for 12 weeks improves cardiovascular autonomic function but not somatosensory nerve function and structure in overweight men with type 2 diabetes.
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A case of brucellosis-induced Guillain-Barre syndrome.
Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date: November 09, 2021
Published By: Joseph V. Campellone, MD, Department of Neurology, Cooper Medical School at Rowan University, Camden, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

Craig A. Neuropathies. In: Cifu DX, ed. Braddom's Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020: chap 41.

Endrizzi SA, Rathmell JP, Hurley RW. Painful peripheral neuropathies. In: Benzon HT, Raja SN, Liu SS, Fishman SM, Cohen SP, eds. Essentials of Pain Medicine. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 32.

Katirji B. Disorders of peripheral nerves. In: Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, Pomeroy SL, Newman NJ, eds. Bradley and Daroff's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 106.