What is peripheral neuropathy?

Posted
by Michael Heygood

Peripheral neuropathy is a type of nerve damage affecting the peripheral nerves of the body. Peripheral neuropathy usually affects the hand or the feet, although it can be present in other areas of the extremities.

On a general level, peripheral neuropathy is caused by damage to the peripheral nervous system, the systems of nerves that transmit information between the brain and spinal cord and the rest of the body. Damage to the peripheral nervous system can cause the signals between the central nervous system and the extremities to become impaired, leading to potentially serious health problems. Peripheral nerve damage can be caused by bodily injuries or trauma, repetitive stress injuries, diabetes mellitus or other metabolic and endocrine disorders, infections, autoimmune diseases, small vessel diseases, kidney problems, inherited genetic conditions, cancer, or exposure to dangerous drugs or toxins.

Common symptoms of peripheral neuropathy may include muscle weakness, numbness, or pain. Patients who experience this condition may report a stabbing, burning pain, or pricking sensations (paresthesia) in the affected extremities. In other cases, patients may experience an abnormal sensitivity to touch (allodynia), muscle wasting, paralysis, or problems with the function of the body’s organ or gland. If damage to the nerves that affect the body’s internal organs occurs, it may cause problems with digestion, sweating, sexual performance, urination, or, in extreme cases, breathing. Medications may be prescribed by a doctor in order to reduce pain caused by nerve damage.

Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy can occur suddenly over a period of days (acute) or gradually over weeks or even years (chronic). Patients who experience acute peripheral neuropathy may experience a sudden onset of symptoms which progress rapidly and resolve slowly as nerves heal. Patients who suffer from chronic neuropathy of the peripheral nerves experience subtle symptoms at first which progress slowly. In some cases, patients with chronic peripheral neuropathy may have alternating periods of remission and relapse, while others may experience continuous symptoms over several months or years. In some cases, chronic neuropathy may worsen over time, which can be painful and debilitating for patients.

Fluoroquinolones Linked to Risk of Peripheral Neuropathy

The Food and Drug Administration has warned that a type of antibiotics known as fluoroquinolones (or “FQ antibiotics”) may increase the risk of developing peripheral neuropathy.

FQ antibiotics include such medications as Levaquin (levofloxacin), Cipro (ciprofloxacin), Avelox (moxifloxacin), Noroxin (norfloxacin), Floxin (ofloxacin), and Factive (gemifloxacin). These drugs can be prescribed either in the form of a prescription pill or as an injectable solution, which is usually administered in a hospital setting. FQ antibiotics are used to treat or prevent bacterial infections such as pneumonia or other respiratory conditions, urinary tract infections, E. coli, salmonella, staph infections, and chlamydia. FQ antibiotics are some of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the U.S., accounting for nearly 36 million prescriptions in 2014 alone.

The FDA first expressed concerns about a link between FQ antibiotics and peripheral neuropathy in April 2013. In August 2013, the FDA issued its first warning about FQ antibiotics, stating that patients who were treated with these drugs could face an increased risk of peripheral nerve damage.

After reviewing evidence regarding the side effects of FQ antibiotics, an FDA panel voted in November 2014 to issue stronger warning labels on these medications in order to warn patients about the risk of peripheral neuropathy. Some health experts have called for the FDA to issue a “black box” warning for these medications due to the several health consequences that can result from peripheral neuropathy caused by Levaquin, Cipro, Avelox, and other FQ medications.

Lawsuits over Peripheral Neuropathy Caused by FQ Antibiotics

Dozens of patients who developed peripheral neuropathy have filed lawsuits against the makers of Levaquin or other FQs. Currently, about 60 product liability lawsuits over nerve damage from FQ antibiotics have been filed against Johnson & Johnson by patients who took Levaquin or against Bayer by users of Cipro or Avelox. These lawsuits have alleged that drug manufacturers have known for years about the link between FQ antibiotics and peripheral neuropathy risks, but failed to warn doctors or patients about these dangers.

Patients who have developed symptoms of nerve damage or were diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy after taking Levaquin or other FQ antibiotic medications may be eligible to file a lawsuit. The first step in filing a lawsuit is to talk with a lawyer with the knowledge and years of experience to handle pharmaceutical liability cases involving FQ antibiotics from start to finish.

Far too often, the pharmaceutical industry puts profit ahead of patient interests, disregarding the safety concerns because of the enormous sales that “blockbuster” drugs and medical devices can generate. At Heygood, Orr & Pearson, we believe that when the actions of pharmaceutical companies and medical devices manufacturers jeopardize the safety or health of patients, they should be held accountable for their actions in a court of law. Our lawyers have amassed years of trial experience on behalf of our clients, and will work diligently to ensure that you receive the best possible representation in your case.

For more information about the link between fluoroquinolones and peripheral neuropathy and to find out whether you may qualify to file a lawsuit, contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001 or by following the link on this page to our free case evaluation form.