(nerve damage)
  • In peripheral neuropathy there is nerve damage
  • There are several causes of nerve damage
  • In unexplained peripheral neuropathy, no reason for the nerve damage has been found after diagnosis
  • HIV can cause peripheral nerve damage




Peripheral neuropathy is a disease of the nerves in the arms or legs. Nerves provide sensation and movement. When the nerves are affected, the muscles and sensation no longer function as they should.


Symptoms of peripheral nerve damage include tingling, a changed sensation, a numbness or an absence of sensation. It often starts in the feet or hands or in the toes or fingers. You may also be in pain. This is often described as a burning pain or sharp pain. It may be more sensitive to touch or you may have difficulty controlling your limbs. It might be difficult to put one foot in front of the other when walking.


Peripheral nerve damage can have many causes. The most common causes are diabetes, Lyme disease, a herpes zoster infection, or as a residual symptom of Guillain Barré syndrome. 

Excessive alcohol consumption can also caus damage to the vessels that reduces blood flow.
Sometimes no good cause for the peripheral nerve damage is found, we then call it 'unexplained'.

HIV and peripheral nerve damage

Unexplained peripheral nerve damage can be a sign of HIV. Other research into the more common causes of peripheral nerve damage (such as diabetes or alcohol consumption) has then provided insufficient explanation. If you are not sure whether you suffer from unexplained peripheral nerve damage, you can contact your doctor.
HIV indicator conditions are conditions or symptoms that occur more often in people with an underlying HIV infection than in people without an HIV infection. Unexplained peripheral neuropathy is one of the HIV indicator conditions. If you have or have had unexplained peripheral neuropathy and have not been tested for HIV, it is advisable to ask your doctor or general practitioner for an HIV test. Find it difficult to ask for an HIV test? You may download a call card that will help you formulate your question.