The peripheral nervous system connects the central nervous system (the brain and the spinal cord) to different parts of your body, including your arms, legs, face and internal organs. These nerves carry messages from the brain to the rest of your body – and are essential for controlling different functions such as walking, moving the arms, etc.
For those suffering from peripheral neuropathy, nerve damage causes the peripheral nerves to malfunction and disrupts their ability to properly send and receive signals. The effects of this damage can range from tingling and numbness to sharp, stabbing pains – usually in the hands or feet.
Determining the cause of your neuropathy is an important step in building a treatment plan to slow or even reverse the damage. There are several potential culprits that can cause damage to the peripheral nerves. Lets take a look at 7 of the common culprits that cause Peripheral Neuropathy:
One of the most common causes of Peripheral Neuropathy is diabetes. More than half of those that suffer from diabetes will develop some kind of neuropathy. If your neuropathy is caused by diabetes, controlling blood sugar levels is the most important thing you can do to stop and reverse the damage.
2. Autoimmune Diseases
Autoimmune diseases, which occur when the immune system attacks and damages different parts of the body, can damage your nerves. Some autoimmune diseases that have been linked to neuropathy are Sjogren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and Guilliain Barre syndrome.
3. Vitamin Deficiency
Certain vitamin deficiencies can lead to nerve damage. Among the various vitamins that support nerve health, B vitamins are perhaps the most essential. Deficiencies of vitamins B1, B6, B12, D, E and niacin can all contribute to the symptoms peripheral neuropathy.
Excessive alcohol consumption can hurt the nerves on two fronts. For one, alcohol contains toxins that – when consumed often and in greater amounts – can damage the nerves. Secondly, alcohol blocks essential vitamins and nutrients from absorbing into our systems. As a result, some of the vitamin deficiencies mentioned above can develop – causing further damage to the nerves.
5. Physical Trauma
Accidents or physical traumas can also cause peripheral neuropathy. As the peripheral nerves extend to the furthest reaches of our bodies – they are especially vulnerable to physical damage. Trauma such as car accidents, sports injuries, or falls can put damage the nerves. Consistent pressure on the nerves can also lead to peripheral neuropathy.
It is estimated that around 30-40% of chemotherapy patients become afflicted with neuropathy. While the drugs used in chemotherapy are designed to attack and kill cancer cells, they can sometimes damage nerve cells as well. In many cases, the symptoms will subside within 3-6 months of the chemotherapy treatment. For more information on cancer-related neuropathy, check out this infographic.
7. Tumors & Infections
Tumors can grow on or around the nerves, putting pressure on them. In some cases this can lead to nerve damage and neuropathy related symptoms. Infections can also wreak havoc on the peripheral nerves. A few common infections linked to neuropathies are Lyme disease, Epstein-Barr virus, diphtheria, hepatitis C, shingles and HIV.
A few other potential causes include bone marrow disorders, genetic disorders, kidney diseases, liver diseases, hypothyroidism and exposure to toxic metals or chemicals. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy – such as numbness, tingling, burning or sharp pains in the hands and feet – meeting with your doctor to determine the underlying cause is an important first step in treating the symptoms and addressing the problem.