CausesBy Mayo Clinic staff
It's not always easy to pinpoint the cause of peripheral neuropathy, because a number of factors can cause neuropathies. These factors include:
- Alcoholism. Many alcoholics develop peripheral neuropathy because they make poor dietary choices, leading to vitamin deficiencies.
- Autoimmune diseases. These include lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and Guillain-Barre syndrome.
- Diabetes. When damage occurs to several nerves, the cause frequently is diabetes. At least half of all people with diabetes develop some type of neuropathy.
- Exposure to poisons. These may include some toxic substances, such as heavy metals, and certain medications — especially those used to treat cancer (chemotherapy).
- Infections. Certain viral or bacterial infections can cause peripheral neuropathy, including Lyme disease, shingles (varicella-zoster), Epstein-Barr, hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS.
- Inherited disorders. Examples include Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease and amyloid polyneuropathy.
- Trauma or pressure on the nerve. Traumas, such as motor vehicle accidents, falls or sports injuries, can sever or damage peripheral nerves. Nerve pressure can result from using a cast or crutches, spending a long time in an unnatural position or repeating a motion many times — such as typing.
- Tumors. Growths can form directly on the nerves themselves, or tumors can exert pressure on surrounding nerves. Both cancerous (malignant) and noncancerous (benign) tumors can contribute to peripheral neuropathy.
- Vitamin deficiencies. B vitamins — B-1, B-6 and B-12 — are particularly important to nerve health. Vitamin E and niacin also are crucial to nerve health.
- Other diseases. Kidney disease, liver disease and an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) also can cause peripheral neuropathy.
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