From diabetes to vitamin deficiencies – there are a number of potential threats to your nerves. The peripheral nervous system is especially prone to threats as the nerves stretch long distances to your outermost extremities – leaving them more vulnerable to damage. The function of your peripheral nerves is to connect your brain to your extremities – allowing them to communicate with each other. Damage to your peripheral nerves can cause a breakdown in communication, resulting in symptoms such as numbness, tingling, burning and/or sharp pain in your hands or feet (otherwise known as peripheral neuropathy).
So what are the potential threats to your nerves? There are various causes of peripheral neuropathy. While some threats can’t always be avoided – other threats can be avoided or minimized if you know about them beforehand. Lets take a look at 10 potential threats to your nerve that could cause peripheral neuropathy:
Of all the threats to your nerves – diabetes is the biggest. Elevated blood sugar – if left unmanaged – damages nerve fibers and blood vessels, resulting in neuropathic pain or numbness. In fact, diabetes is the leading cause of neuropathy in the United States with approximately 70% of all diabetic patients developing symptoms of neuropathy.
This graphic shows you just how big of a threat diabetes is to your nerves…
For cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment, the risk of peripheral neuropathy is greater. Chemotherapy and other drugs used in cancer treatment can damage the peripheral nerves – resulting in chemotherapy-induced neuropathy. An estimated 30-40% of patients undergoing chemotherapy will develop peripheral neuropathy.
For many – the symptoms of their peripheral neuropathy will subside once treatment is over. However, for some, the symptoms may persist even after treatment.
Source: Cancer Related Neuropathies InfoGraphic – An infographic by the team at The Neuropathy created this great InfoGraphic, Please share it!
In addition to medications used to treat cancer – other types of medications have been linked to the development of neuropathy. For example, some medications used to fight infections (including the antiretroviral agents used to treat HIV) can lead to complications of neuropathy. Other potential threats include anti-seizure medications and various heart and blood pressure medicines. Here is a list of medications that have the potential to cause neuropathy:
While doctors and pharmacists will do their best to keep you informed of potential side effects of medications, it is important that you do your own research. It is also important to be keenly aware of the effects medications are having on your body. If you begin to notice adverse side effects such as numbness, tingling or nerve-related pain – let your doctor know immediately. In many cases the symptoms of neuropathy will subside once you stop taking the medication – but it is important to address the problem sooner rather than later.
4. Vitamin & Nutrient Deficiencies
You wouldn’t think nutritional deficiencies would be much of an issue in countries such as the United States – but surprisingly – there are a number of common deficiencies in the U.S. and other developed countries. Poor dietary choices are usually the culprit, leaving us deprived of important vitamins and nutrients. Nutritional deficiencies can have a variety of effects on your health; including increased levels of fatigue or weakness, soreness, bruising, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, memory loss and much more.
In addition to the various negative health outcomes mentioned above, some nutritional deficiencies pose a threat to the health of your nerves. A few deficiencies commonly linked to neuropathy are deficiency of vitamin B12, vitamin B2, vitamin D and Magnesium.
Of these – Vitamin B12 deficiency plays the biggest part in development of neuropathic pain. Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin for the health of the myelin sheath – a protective layer of fat around the nerves. A deficiency of B12 can lead to degeneration of this protective coating – leaving the nerves more vulnerable to damage.
For those suffering from diabetic neuropathy – vitamin D is an important vitamin for combating your diabetes and slowing the progress of your neuropathy. Studies have shown that individuals lacking in vitamin D are more likely to develop diabetes. Those who have been diagnosed with diabetes and suffer from low vitamin D levels are more likely to develop complications such as neuropathy. As such, getting enough vitamin D either through exposure to the sun or from food or dietary supplements is hugely important for those with diabetes or diabetic neuropathy.
5. Repeated Pressure On the Nerves
A more silent threat to your nerves is consistent, repeated pressure or compression of nerves or nerve tissue. A variety of activities can cause this to occur. These can include sitting for long periods of time, typing or other repetitive motions that put stress on the nerves, poor posture and more.
For example, sitting for long periods of time can put pressure on the nerves as well as cut of circulation to your feet – depriving the peripheral nerves of the life-sustaining oxygen and nutrients that blood delivers.
Heavy consumption of alcohol poses a significant threat to your nerves. Alcohol consumption inhibits the absorption of certain vitamins and nutrients into the blood stream. This – combined with the poor dietary choices associated with alcoholism – can lead to nerve damaging vitamin and nutritional deficiencies. For those already suffering from neuropathy, alcohol consumption should be limited to prevent an acceleration of your symptoms.
According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 51.4 million inpatient surgical procedures were performed in the United States last year. That’s more than 140k surgeries per day! With every surgery there is an inherent risk to the peripheral nerves. In fact, surgery is another common cause of peripheral neuropathy.
The risks to the peripheral nerves during surgery are many. Damage can be caused by inadvertent cutting of nerve tissue, inflammation on or around the nerves, extended contact between nerve tissue and surgical tools or equipment, stretching or compression of nerve tissue and more.
8. Physical Trauma
Another potential threat to your nerves is damage from physical trauma. According to the Mayo Clinic, trauma such as “motor vehicle accidents, falls or sports injuries can sever or damage peripheral nerves.” While you can’t always prevent accidents such as this – make sure to notify your doctor immediately if you experience any of the symptoms associated with nerve pain.
Exposure to certain toxins can damage your nerves. As mentioned previously in this article – exposure to toxins from cancer treatment and other medications can cause neuropathy. In addition to medicinal toxins, other toxins can prove harmful to the nerves. These include environmental and industrial toxins like lead, mercury or arsenic. Toxins from heavy alcohol consumption can also lead to peripheral neuropathy.
10. Autoimmune Diseases
If you suffer from an autoimmune disease – you may be at greater risk of developing neuropathy. According to the Mayo Clinic, the autoimmune diseases most commonly associated with neuropathy include Sjogren’s syndrome, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Guillain-Barre syndrome, chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy and necrotizing vasculitis.
While not all threats to your nerves can be prevented – knowing what the threats are can help you take steps to minimize your risk and be better prepared to recognize the cause or source of your neuropathy. Knowing the cause of your neuropathy can – in some cases – provide you with the knowledge you need to begin making changes to slow or even halt the spread of damage.
How has knowing the cause of your neuropathy helped you and your doctor develop an effective treatment plan? Share your comments with us on our Facebook Page.