Peripheral neuropathy is often only associated with diabetes, for a good reason — up to 70% of those who have diabetes develop some degree of nerve damage. Yet, diabetes is far from the only driver of peripheral neuropathy, which can stem from a wide range of issues from alcoholism to vitamin deficiencies.

At Spinal Diagnostics, our team greatly values patient education, and we want you to have access to the information you need to help better guide your health care decisions.

This month’s blog post focuses on peripheral neuropathy and some of the lesser-known causes to help you fully understand what can lead to nerve damage.

Peripheral neuropathy 101

In the broadest sense, peripheral neuropathy describes a condition in which nerves outside your central nervous system are damaged. Where peripheral neuropathy becomes complicated is that it can affect different types of nerves, including:

  • Sensory nerves that control sensations
  • Motor nerves that control most of your muscles
  • Autonomic nerves that control those involuntary functions, like heart rate, breathing, and digestive function

When the damage occurs in your sensory nerves, you can be left with side effects, such as pain, numbness, tingling, and other “odd” sensations in the damaged nerves.

If your neuropathy involves a motor nerve, you’ll likely experience muscle weakness, cramps, twitching, and, eventually, muscle deterioration.

When it comes to autonomic nerve damage, you may experience gastrointestinal issues, loss of bladder control, heat intolerance, or blood pressure issues, depending upon which autonomic is affected.

Causes of peripheral neuropathy

As we mentioned, diabetes is, far and away, the leading culprit behind peripheral neuropathy, but it’s far from the only one.

To give you an idea, here are a few examples of issues that can lead to nerve damage:

Physical trauma

If you injure yourself — break a bone, for example — you might also damage a nerve in the area.

Vitamin deficiencies

If you have a B12 or vitamin D deficiency, you run the risk of incurring nerve damage as these vitamins are critical to the health of your nerves.

Infections

Certain infections can damage your nerves, including chickenpox, shingles, west Nile virus, Lyme disease, and HIV/AIDS.

Chemotherapy

Approximately 30-40% of people who undergo chemotherapy develop peripheral neuropathy.

Alcoholism

Over time, heavy drinking can damage your peripheral nerves as alcohol is toxic to nerve tissue.

Autoimmune disorders

Several autoimmune disorders can lead to nerve damage, such as Guillain-Barré syndrome and chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy.

As you can see, there are a number of causes of peripheral neuropathy, and understanding the underlying cause is incredibly important in helping you find the right treatment.

At our practice, we fully evaluate your peripheral neuropathy through:

  • Symptom review
  • Medical history
  • Nerve testing, including conduction studies

Once we identify the underlying cause, we work to address the problem while also providing relief from your symptoms.

If you have more questions about peripheral neuropathy, please contact one of our locations in Tualatin or Newberg, Oregon, to set up an appointment.

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