Peripheral neuropathy in the leg is damage to the nerves that regulate temperature, pressure and pain perception, and muscle strength, according to WebMD. The neuropathy typically begins as loss of feeling and pain in the toes, and as it worsens, the damage spreads to the legs.
Peripheral neuropathy in the legs and feet may cause coordination and balance problems, affecting an individual’s ability to walk, explains WebMD. There may be numbness and tingling in the legs or burning, stabbing pain that is often worse during sleep. Diabetes is the most common cause of peripheral neuropathy because high blood sugar levels damage the nerves, although the condition has a genetic component. Kidney disorders sometimes cause neuropathy due to the nerve-damaging effect produced by toxic substances that remain in the blood.
A vitamin B-12 deficiency, often found in cases of excessive alcohol consumption and in the presence of an unhealthy diet, can cause neuropathy, states WebMD. Diseases that damage the central and peripheral nerves, such as HIV, can lead to neuropathy as can exposure to toxins and certain chemotherapy drugs.
Physical therapy is sometimes effective for increasing muscle strength and control, notes WebMD. In cases of diabetic neuropathy, maintaining healthy blood sugar levels can often slow the progression of the nerve damage and may even improve it in some individuals.