Small-fiber neuropathy

Muscle Nerve. 2002 Aug;26(2):173-88. doi: 10.1002/mus.10181.


Small-fiber neuropathy is a common disorder. It is often "idiopathic" and typically presents with painful feet in patients over the age of 60. Autoimmune mechanisms are often suspected, but rarely identified. Known causes of small-fiber neuropathy include diabetes mellitus, amyloidosis, toxins, and inherited sensory and autonomic neuropathies. Occasionally, small-fiber neuropathy is diffuse or multifocal. Depending on the type of small-fiber neuropathy, autonomic dysfunction can be significant or subclinical. Diagnosis is made on the basis of the clinical features, normal nerve conduction studies, and abnormal specialized tests of small-fiber function. These specialized studies include assessment of epidermal nerve fiber density as well as sudomotor, quantitative sensory, and cardiovagal testing. The sensitivities of these tests range from 59-88%. Each has certain advantages and disadvantages, and the tests may be complementary. Unless an underlying disease is identified, treatment is usually directed toward alleviation of neuropathic pain.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Nerve Fibers / pathology*
  • Neurons, Afferent / pathology*
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / pathology*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / physiopathology