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Peripheral neuropathy: pattern recognition for the pragmatist
  1. James R Overell
  1. Correspondence to Dr J R Overell, Consultant Neurologist, Neurology Department, Institute of Neurological Sciences, Southern General Hospital, 1345 Govan Road, Glasgow G51 4TF, UK; james.overell{at}


Long lists of causes of peripheral neuropathy make peripheral nerve disease a dry and uninspiring subject. A simple scheme based on the answers to just six questions should enable the clinician to recognise characteristic patterns, investigate relevant subgroups appropriately, and identify treatable disorders quickly: which systems are involved? What is the distribution of weakness? What is the nature of the sensory involvement? Is there any evidence of upper motor neuron involvement? What is the temporal evolution? Is there any evidence for a hereditary neuropathy? Standard screening investigations suffice for the common length dependent axonal neuropathies while complex presentations need more detailed investigations targeted to their clinical phenotype.

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  • This is a reprint of a paper that first appeared in Practical Neurology, 2011, Volume 11, pages 62–70.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned, externally peer reviewed.

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