Neuropathy isn’t just one disease. Instead, it’s a collection of disorders, each of which can be caused by different factors. While many things can cause neuropathy, some causes are more common than others. Let’s take a look at a few of the more common causes of the condition.
Diabetes is one of the most common causes of neuropathy. Recent studies suggest that it affects as many as two thirds of people with diabetes. Studies also suggest that it has a negative effect on people’s quality of life.
Diabetic nerve pain or neuropathy occurs when high blood sugar levels damage the nerves. Nerve fibers are particularly delicate. High levels of sugar in the blood can disrupt the nerves’ ability to send signals to other areas of the body. The high blood sugar also makes the capillaries’ walls weaker, so that nerves do not get an adequate amount of nutrients and oxygen from the blood.
The longer a person has had diabetes, the higher his or her risk for developing neuropathy. Managing or controlling blood sugar levels can help people reduce their risk for nerve damage. If nerve damage has already occurred, working to get blood sugar levels under control can help minimize symptoms.
Diabetic neuropathy can take several forms. Some people can have a single form of it or suffer from variety of types. The most common type of neuropathy affects the sensory nerves. Usually, people experience numbness, tingling or pain in their feet first, then in the hands.
Radiculoplexus neuropathy affects nerves in the thighs and buttocks, usually on just one side of the body. Autonomic neuropathy affects nerves in various organs. It can interfere with the way those organs function and lead to serious problems.
Diabetic patients with signs of neuropathy should talk to their doctors. There is no real cure for neuropathy, but treatments can help slow or minimize symptoms.
Another common cause of neuropathy is a vitamin deficiency. Several vitamins, specifically vitamins B1, B6, B12 and vitamin E, are thought to play a part in protecting the nerves. Because a lack of certain vitamins can contribute to neuropathy, taking vitamin supplements, such as Nerve Renew, can help many people manage and reduce their symptoms.
There are a number of reasons why a person might be deficient in certain vitamins. People who suffer from alcoholism might experience neuropathy because they aren’t eating a complete or healthy diet. Alcohol also interferes with the body’s ability to absorb certain vitamins, particularly vitamin B1.
Dietary choices can also affect a person’s vitamin levels. Those who follow a vegan diet need to be particularly cautious about getting enough B12. Vitamin B12 is naturally only found in animal-based foods, such as meat, dairy and eggs. Vegans can increase their intake of B12 by taking a supplement or by eating B12-fortified foods, such as soy milk or nutritional yeast.
Herpes Zoster Infection
Decades after having chickenpox, some people develop shingles. Both are caused by the same virus, herpes zoster. After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus remains in the body in a dormant state. It can be reawakened after many years, due to age or stress. When a person has shingles, the virus attacks the nerves.
Along with itchiness and a rash on the skin, nerve pain is a common symptom of shingles. The infection can also cause post herpetic neuralgia, an intense pain that can persist for years after the infection has cleared.
Shingles is common, particularly among older adults. But there are number of ways to reduce the risk for it. The chickenpox vaccine prevents people from ever developing the virus in the first place. Those have had chickenpox can get a shingles vaccine later in life to prevent the disease from occurring.
Sometimes, neuropathy occurs because the body’s immune system becomes confused and attacks itself. Some autoimmune disorders are more likely to cause nerve damage than others. Sjorgren’s syndrome is one of the more common autoimmune disorders. It’s also one that is likely to cause neuropathy.
Sjorgren’s usually causes sensory neuropathy, meaning a person feels pain, numbness or tingling in certain parts of the body. The disorder usually causes inflammation in the tissue around the nerves, which can then spread to the nerve fibers themselves.
Lupus is another autoimmune disorder than can cause neuropathy, as is rheumatoid arthritis. Controlling the symptoms of the disorder, usually by suppressing the immune system, can help patients manage the pain of neuropathy.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is more than just the plague of office workers. It’s also a type of neuropathy. It causes numbness, tingling and occasionally sharp, debilitating pain, usually in the wrist and forearm.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a type of entrapment neuropathy. It’s the most common neuropathy of its type. People who suffer from it develop inflammation or thickening in the tendons along their wrists. Those inflamed tendons block the carpal tunnel, which also houses the median nerve. The median nerve is pinched or compressed, causing pain and tingling.
Some people have a higher risk for carpal tunnel syndrome because their carpal tunnel is naturally narrow or smaller than average. Injury to the wrist or arm and certain repetitive movements can also put a person at greater risk for developing the condition.
Charcot-Marie-Tooth disorder is a hereditary condition that affects about 1 out of every 2,500 people in the US. It is the most common cause of hereditary neuropathy. The disorder is caused by a mutation in the genes that control the function of the peripheral nerves.
Some people have signs of the disorder from birth while others develop symptoms later on. Often, symptoms develop in the feet first and move up the body. Muscle weakness is a common symptom of the disorder, as is atrophy of the leg muscles. The neuropathy can affect the autonomous nerves, causing problems such as constipation, dizziness and incontinence.
There more than 100 types of neuropathy and as many, if not more, causes of it. Knowing the cause of the condition helps doctors and patients treat it.