Exams and Tests
All exams and tests performed depend on the clinical presentation of the
symptoms of the patient with suspected neuropathy. The diagnosis of neuropathy
and its cause involve a thorough medical history and physical examination to
help your health care professional determine the cause and severity of
neuropathy. A neurological examination, testing the reflexes and function of
sensory and motor nerves, is an important component of the initial examination.
Although there are no blood tests that are specific for determining whether
of not neuropathy is present, when neuropathy is suspected, blood tests are
often used to check for the presence of diseases and conditions (for example,
diabetes or vitamin deficiencies) that may be responsible for nerve damage.
Imaging studies such as X-rays,
CT scans, and
MRI scans may be performed to
look for sources of pressure on or damage to nerves.
Specific tests of nerve function include:
- Electromyography (EMG) is a test that measures the function of the nerves.
For this test a very thin needle is inserted through the skin into the muscle.
The needle contains an electrode that measures the electrical activity of the
- A nerve conduction velocity test (NCV) measures the speed at which signals
travel through the nerves. This test is often done with the EMG. In the NCV
test, patches containing surface electrodes are placed on the skin over nerves
at various locations. Each patch gives off a very mild electrical impulse, which
stimulates the nerve. The electrical activity of the nerves is measured and the
speed of the electrical impulses between electrodes (reflecting the speed of the
nerve signals) is calculated.
- In some cases, a nerve biopsy may be recommended. A biopsy is the surgical
removal of a small piece of tissue for examination under a microscope. A
pathologist, a physician specially trained in tissue diagnosis, examines the
specimen and can help establish the cause of the neuropathy. The procedure is
performed using a local anesthetic. The sural nerve (in the ankle), or the
superficial radial nerve (wrist) are the sites most often used for biopsy.
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