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 diseases include Sjogren's syndrome, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Guillain-Barre syndrome, chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy and necrotizing vasculitis.
  • 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. Multiple forms of diabetic neuropathy exist. Some occur due to diabetes and others are associated with it.
  • Exposure to poisons. Exposure to poisons may include some toxic substances, such as heavy metals or chemicals.
  • Medications. Certain medications, especially those used to treat cancer (chemotherapy), may cause peripheral neuropathy.
  • Infections. Certain viral or bacterial infections can cause peripheral neuropathy, including Lyme disease, shingles (varicella-zoster), Epstein-Barr virus, hepatitis C, leprosy, diphtheria and HIV.
  • Inherited disorders. Disorders such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease are hereditary types of neuropathy.
  • 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 put pressure on surrounding nerves. Both cancerous (malignant) and noncancerous (benign) tumors can contribute to peripheral neuropathy.

    Paraneoplastic syndromes are associated with cancers and can also cause neuropathy.

  • Vitamin deficiencies. B vitamins, including B-1, B-6 and B-12, are particularly important to nerve health. Vitamin E and niacin also are crucial to nerve health. Not having enough of these vitamins in your system may cause peripheral neuropathy.
  • Other diseases. Kidney disease, liver disease, connective tissue disorders, an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) and amyloidosis also can cause peripheral neuropathy.
Aug. 13, 2013