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Life Expectancy with Peripheral Neuropathy

Posted by:

Johannes Sauer

Published at: June 13, 2024

Table of Contents
  1. What is Peripheral Neuropathy?

  2. Factors That Affect Life Expectancy in People with Peripheral Neuropathy

    1. Underlying Health Issues

    2. Diabetes

    3. Cardiovascular Health

    4. Kidney Disease

    5. Lifestyle

    6. Psychological Issues

    7. Complications of Peripheral Neuropathy

      1. Difficulty Breathing

      2. Loss of Balance

      3. Muscle Atrophy

      4. Risk of Injuries

    8. Treatment for Peripheral Neuropathy

      1. Immunosuppressive Drugs

      2. Topical Medications

    9. How to Improve Your Lifestyle

What is Peripheral Neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathy is a condition where the peripheral nerves (those are the nerves outside of your spinal cord and brain) are damaged.

The most common symptoms of peripheral neuropathy are numbness, pain, weakness or tingling in the hands or feet, and sometimes also in the arms and legs. You may feel more touch sensitivity, or find activities painful that would otherwise be pain-free. 

Peripheral neuropathy can give you an odd sensation that you have gloves or socks on, even if you are wearing nothing on your hands or feet.

Movement problems may be involved if you have damage to your motor nerves.

When peripheral neuropathy involves autonomic nerves, symptoms can include sweating excessively or not at all, intolerance to heat, blood pressure drops, digestive issues, or bowel or bladder problems.

Factors That Affect Life Expectancy in People with Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy can shorten life expectancy. A research study found a strong association between peripheral neuropathy and earlier mortality among an older population. The researchers suggest that the reason for the association might be problems with balance, but say that further investigation is needed.

In some cases, peripheral neuropathy may also be associated with underlying health conditions that can shorten lifespan.

Another possibility is that the impact that peripheral neuropathy has on mental health or lifestyle could lead to earlier mortality. 

If your peripheral neuropathy is mild, you have no underlying health conditions, and you can maintain a healthy lifestyle, the effect on your lifespan could be negligible.

But in severe cases or those where an underlying health condition is involved, you may be at risk for earlier mortality.

Underlying Health Issues

Let’s take a look at some underlying health conditions that are commonly associated with peripheral neuropathy.


The most common cause of peripheral neuropathy is diabetes, affecting around half of diabetes patients. 

You should note that patients with diabetes can also get other types of neuropathy, including autonomic neuropathy, proximal neuropathy and mononeuropathy.

Diabetic neuropathy can be mild, moderate, or severe, causing different levels of disability. 

Diabetes itself is associated with a shortened lifespan. Researchers have found that the earlier the age of the diagnosis, the shorter the life expectancy. For every decade, life expectancy is shortened by 3-4 years.

Cardiovascular Health

In addition, research shows that peripheral neuropathy is linked to higher rates of cardiovascular disease (CVD) events in patients with diabetes. 

Cardiovascular disease events such as heart attacks and strokes can be deadly, so this is another connection between peripheral neuropathy and shortened lifespan.

Kidney Disease

Diabetes, high blood pressure, and other conditions can lead to chronic kidney or renal failure. It is estimated that anywhere between half and all of people with chronic kidney disease develop a type of peripheral neuropathy called “uremic neuropathy” as a complication. 

The symptoms are similar to those occurring in other types of peripheral neuropathy: pain, numbness, tingling, weakness, loss of balance, and a heat sensation in the feet and legs. Sometimes, the patient may experience restless legs syndrome.


Research shows that people who exercise may experience less neuropathic pain than those who do not. 

Alas, staying active can be a challenge with peripheral neuropathy, because the pain and numbness can make it difficult to keep moving. 

Not only that, but underlying health conditions associated with peripheral neuropathy also may make it harder to work out. 

We will offer some recommendations for safer, easier exercise with peripheral neuropathy later on in this post.

Psychological Issues

There is a high prevalence of depression among people with peripheral neuropathy. Depression can worsen pain, but of course, feeling pain can also feed into depression.

This can create a positive feedback loop that continues to amplify both pain and depression. Patients who receive both treatment for their physical pain and their psychological symptoms may benefit more than those who only receive one or the other.

Complications of Peripheral Neuropathy

Depending on the nerves that are affected as well as the severity of the condition, some patients experience complications of neuropathy that may lead to the risk of earlier mortality.

Difficulty Breathing

Most people with peripheral neuropathy will never experience this complication, but it does show up in some cases, especially those involving Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS). The neuropathy leads to weakness in the muscles used for breathing, which in turn causes the difficulties with breathing.

Loss of Balance

If you have numbness in your feet or legs, it can be harder to know where your feet are at in space. As a result, you are more likely to misstep and lose your balance.

Muscle Atrophy

In some cases, peripheral neuropathy can lead to atrophying of the muscles. In severe cases, the loss of muscle tissue in the hands and feet can be severe enough to cause deformity.

Risk of Injuries

If you are experiencing muscle atrophy and/or difficulties maintaining your balance, you are at a greater risk of tripping and falling. If you do fall, you could be injured.

Treatment for Peripheral Neuropathy

Thankfully, there are treatments available for peripheral neuropathy. Keep in mind that if you have another underlying health condition, it is crucial that you treat that condition too in order to protect your health now and in the future.

Immunosuppressive Drugs

Peripheral neuropathy is sometimes treated with immunosuppressive drugs. Research shows that a single drug may be as effective as multiple drugs combined.

Topical Medications

Lidocaine is a popular topical treatment for peripheral neuropathy. Along with its analgesic effects, it has anti-inflammatory properties. It is not addictive, and can be used daily over the long term with 12-hour breaks between applications. 

You can buy lidocaine as a cream or ointment, or on patches. The patches may seem expensive, but you can wear one for many hours, and you may be able to cut them up, depending on the area you need to cover. So, a box of patches may last quite a bit longer than you would think, and arguably offers a superior value in some cases.

Most patients use over-the-counter lidocaine, though a slightly stronger form is available through prescription. Is it worth it? Well, it is quite a bit pricier than the OTC variety, but many patients swear by it. You may want to try it if you like OTC lidocaine, but still feel you could use something stronger.

How to Improve Your Lifestyle

It can be difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle when you have peripheral neuropathy. The pain, numbness and other unpleasant sensations can make it challenging to stay active.

Getting to the point where you can walk with neuropathy regularly can be beneficial. It can boost your circulation, strengthen your muscles, and reduce your stress. It can also help you to maintain your overall wellness. 

You can start by doing some simple, gentle stretches and balance exercises for neuropathy, and then progress to things like swimming, walking and cycling when you are ready.

One thing that can help you out a lot is choosing suitable shoes for neuropathy, such as the Cadense Original Adaptive Shoe. 

This shoe’s patented variable friction technology helps you to “glide” across uneven surfaces, even if you have difficulty fully lifting your feet due to your nerve damage.

The shoes are made out of breathable, lightweight material, minimizing fatigue and preventing an uncomfortable build-up of heat and sweat. Cushioning provides comfort and support, and the wide base offers improved stability. 

Along with exercise, something else you can do is improve your diet. A healthy diet for neuropathy includes B vitamins, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. 

Remember that lifestyle changes are most effective if you make them a long-term commitment. You may need to eat better and stay more active for weeks or months to start noticing improvements. So, be patient, and stick with your new routines. Hopefully you will start feeling better soon.

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What is the typical life expectancy for someone with peripheral neuropathy?

The study we discussed previously that examined the effects of peripheral neuropathy on the life spans of older participants found that mean survival time for patients with peripheral neuropathy was 10.8 years, while mean survival time for patients without peripheral neuropathy was 13.9 years. That is a difference of 3.1 years.

While that is not a massive difference, it is still a significant one.

Can lifestyle changes impact life expectancy?

Lifestyle changes that enhance your overall health, help mitigate your underlying conditions, or improve your peripheral neuropathy symptoms may all theoretically impact your life expectancy.

Are there warning signs that could indicate change in life expectancy?

Worsening of an underlying health condition that is associated with earlier mortality could indicate a change in life expectancy.

Some changes could also indicate a heightened risk, but be factors you can mitigate. 

For example, if you have increased numbness, you could have a higher chance of falling. But if you take extra care to maintain your balance, you can prevent falls, and reduce your chances of dangerous injuries.

How important is regular medical care for individuals with peripheral neuropathy?

Regular medical care is very important for patients with peripheral neuropathy. For one thing, seeing a doctor regularly helps you get the treatments you need to reduce your pain and other peripheral neuropathy symptoms. 

But it also helps you keep an eye on any underlying conditions you might have, and treat those conditions effectively.

Posted by: Johannes Sauer

Johannes is the CEO and Co-Founder of Cadense and passionate about helping people with walking difficulties. Johannes is the CEO and Co-Founder of Cadense and passionate about helping people with walking difficulties. He was immediately drawn to the mission of the company because his cousin lost his lower leg in a tragic motorcycle accident a few years ago and is experiencing walking difficulties ever since. Johannes brings over a decade of experience in working for consumer product companies to Cadense. He holds an MBA from the University of Graz in Austria. Johannes lives with his family in Santa Barbara, CA.

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