Neuropathy is a condition that causes weakness, numbness, and pain, usually as a result of nerve damage. Although this condition occurs most commonly in your hands and feet, it can also affect other areas of your body as well. Peripheral neuropathy is the most common type, and it is usually caused by traumatic injuries, infections, metabolic problems, diabetes, inherited causes, and exposure to toxins.
Causes and Risk Factors
There are many things that can increase your risk for developing neuropathies. Some of these can be managed to help lower your risk of developing the condition, while others are genetic or otherwise outside your control. They include:
- Alcoholism: Alcoholics are more likely to have vitamin deficiencies, which can lead to neuropathy.
- Tumors: If you develop any growths (malignant or benign) on or around nerves, this can put pressure on them that leads to the symptoms of neuropathy.
- Autoimmune diseases: There are certain autoimmune diseases that increase your risk for neuropathy, including Sjogren’s syndrome, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Guillain-Barre syndrome, chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, and necrotizing vasculitis.
- Diabetes: This is one of the number one causes for neuropathy, as over half of people with diabetes will develop neuropathy at some point in their life.
- Medications: Many medications have been known to lead to neuropathy, especially certain medications that are used to treat cancer.
- Vitamin deficiencies: There are certain vitamins that are crucial to nerve health, including vitamin B-1, B-6, B-12, vitamin E, and niacin. A lack of any one of these may contribute to neuropathy.
- Exposure to poisons: If substances contain heavy metals or chemicals, they could be toxic and lead to complications such as neuropathy.
- Inherited disorders: There are some hereditary types of neuropathy, including disorders such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.
- Infections: Certain viral or bacterial infections can cause neuropathy as a symptom, including Lyme disease, shingles, Epstein-Barr virus, hepatitis C, leprosy, diphtheria, and HIV.
- Bone marrow disorders: This could include abnormal proteins in the blood, lymphoma, amyloidosis, and some forms of bone cancer.
- Trauma or pressure on the nerve: If you are in a motor vehicle accident or suffer another traumatic injury, this could sever or damage your peripheral nerves, leading to neuropathy.
- Other diseases: There are some other diseases that can lead to neuropathy, including kidney disease, liver disease, connective tissue disorders, and an underactive thyroid.
In order to prevent yourself from developing neuropathy, the best thing to do is to manage any medical conditions that might be increasing your risk, such alcoholism, rheumatoid arthritis, or diabetes. Additionally, you can further decrease your risk by making healthy lifestyle choices including:
- Exercise regularly: You should try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise at least three times a week to lower your risk of nerve-related problems such as neuropathy.
- Eat a healthy diet: You should eat a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein in order to keep your nerves as healthy as possible.
- Avoid other risk factors: Finally, you should try to avoid any other factors that may increase your risk of developing neuropathy, such as repetitive motions, cramped positions, smoking, and exposure to toxic chemicals.