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a functional weakness of the nervous system accompanied by a decrease in the absolute threshold (also called the stimulus, or sensitivity, threshold); the condition is frequently congenital.
Neuropathy arises as a disturbance in the function of the autonomic nervous system owing to deleterious influences on the fetus as a whole (for example, infection in the pregnant mother, trauma, or poisoning) or on the individual embryonic cells (as occurs when the parents suffer from alcoholism). Family circumstances, upbringing, and illnesses suffered by the infant play a role in the pathogenesis of neuropathy. The symptoms usually emerge in childhood or adolescence. When neuropathy occurs in early childhood, disturbances of sleep and appetite are most characteristic; the infant has difficulty in falling asleep, awakes easily, suckles poorly, and frequently spits up. Later, vomiting occurs, and either diarrhea or constipation develop.
From the preschool years on, increased general excitability and the rapid onset of fatigue and exhaustion are observed, in addition to continued disturbances of sleep and appetite. Children who suffer from neuropathy blush easily in response to irritation. Motor hyperactivity, nervous tics, and stammering are frequent. In adolescence, autonomic-vascular instability becomes more acute, as evidenced by frequently occurring nervous palpitation, abrupt shifts in blood pressure, headaches, dizzy spells, and fainting spells. The prognosis is favorable, with the neuropathic symptoms usually disappearing with age.
REFERENCESSimson, T. Nevropatii, psikhopatii i reaktivnye sostoianiia mladencheskogo vozrasta. Moscow-Leningrad, 1929.
Sukhareva, G. E. Klinicheskie lektsii po psikhiatrii detskogo vozrasta, vol. 2. Moscow, 1959.
L. M. SHMAONOVA