VA presumes Veterans' early-onset peripheral neuropathy is related to their exposure to Agent Orange or other herbicides during service when the disease appears within one year of exposure to a degree of at least 10 percent disabling by VA's rating regulations.
Peripheral neuropathy is a condition of the peripheral nervous system, which consists of nerves outside the brain and spinal cord.
Symptoms include numbness, tingling or prickling in the toes or fingers in early stages. This may spread to the feet or hands and may cause burning, throbbing or shooting pain that is worse at night. Other symptoms include pain equally in both sides of the body (in both hands or in both feet), muscle weakness, loss of balance or coordination, and extreme sensitivity to touch.
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Veterans with early-onset peripheral neuropathy that appeared within one year of exposure to herbicides during service to a degree of at least 10 percent disabling by VA's rating regulations may be eligible for disability compensation and health care.
Veterans who served in Vietnam, the Korean demilitarized zone or another area where Agent Orange was sprayed may be eligible for a free Agent Orange registry health exam.
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academy of Sciences concluded in its report Veterans and Agent Orange: Update 1996 that there is some evidence to suggest that neuropathy of acute or subacute onset may be associated with herbicide exposure. Based on this evidence, VA presumed an association between herbicide exposure during service and acute and subacute peripheral neuropathy.
The IOM report Veterans and Agent Orange: Update 2010 concluded that there is "limited or suggestive evidence of an association" between herbicide exposure and "early-onset peripheral neuropathy that may be persistent". In response to this report, VA eliminated the requirement that acute and subacute peripheral neuropathy appear "within weeks or months" after exposure and resolve within two years. The final regulation took effect Sept. 6, 2013.
View more research on health effects of Agent Orange.