Nerve damage may be caused by a number of different diseases, injuries,
infections, and even vitamin deficiency states.
- Diabetes: Diabetes is the condition most commonly associated with neuropathy. The
characteristic symptoms of peripheral neuropathy often seen in people with
diabetes are sometimes referred to as diabetic neuropathy. The risk of having
diabetic neuropathy rises with age and duration of diabetes. Neuropathy is most
common in people who have had diabetes for decades and is generally more severe
in those who have had difficulty controlling their diabetes, or those who are
overweight or have elevated blood lipids and
high blood pressure.
- Vitamin deficiencies: Deficiencies of the
vitamins B12 and folate as well
as other B vitamins can cause damage to the nerves.
- Autoimmune neuropathy: Autoimmune diseases such as
systemic lupus, and
Guillain-Barre syndrome can cause neuropathies.
- Infection: Some infections, including
can damage nerves.
- Post-herpetic neuralgia: Post-herpetic neuralgia, a complication of
shingles (varicella-zoster virus
infection) is a form of neuropathy.
- Alcoholic neuropathy: Alcoholism is often associated with peripheral
neuropathy. Although the exact reasons for the nerve damage are unclear, it
probably arises from a combination of damage to the nerves by alcohol itself
along with the poor nutrition and associated vitamin deficiencies that are
common in alcoholics.
- Genetic or inherited disorders: Genetic or inherited disorders can affect the nerves and are responsible
for some cases of neuropathy. Examples include Friedreich's ataxia and
- Amyloidosis: Amyloidosis is a condition in which abnormal protein fibers are deposited
in tissues and organs. These protein deposits can lead to varying degrees of
organ damage and may be a cause of neuropathy.
- Uremia: Uremia (a high concentration of waste products in the blood due to
failure) can lead to neuropathy.
- Toxins and poisons can damage nerves. Examples include, gold compounds,
lead, arsenic, mercury, some industrial solvents, nitrous oxide, and
- Drugs or medication: Certain drugs and medications can cause nerve damage.
Examples include cancer therapy drugs
such as vincristine (Oncovin, Vincasar), and
antibiotics such as
(Flagyl), and isoniazid (Nydrazid, Laniazid).
- Trauma/Injury: Trauma or injury to nerves, including prolonged pressure on a nerve or
group of nerves, is a common cause of neuropathy. Decreased blood flow
(ischemia) to the nerves can also lead to long-term damage.
- Tumors: Benign or malignant tumors of the nerves or nearby structures may damage
the nerves directly, by invading the nerves, or cause neuropathy due to pressure
on the nerves.
- Idiopathic: Idiopathic neuropathy is neuropathy for which no cause has been
established. The term idiopathic is used in medicine to denote the fact that no
cause is known.
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