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Peripheral neuropathy

  • Definition

    Peripheral nerves carry information to and from the brain. They also carry signals to and from the spinal cord to the rest of the body.

    Peripheral neuropathy means these nerves don't work properly. Peripheral neuropathy may be damage to a single nerve. It may be damage to a nerve group. It may also affect nerves in the whole body.


    Alternative Names

    Peripheral neuritis; Neuropathy - peripheral; Neuritis - peripheral


    Causes, incidence, and risk factors

    Nerve damage is very common. There are many types and causes. Often, no cause can be found. Some nerves diseases run in families.

    Diabetes is the most common cause of this type of nerve problem. It happens when you have high blood sugar levels over a long time.

    Other medical problems that may cause neuropathy are:

    • Autoimmune disorders rheumatoid arthritis or lupus
    • Chronic kidney disease
    • Infections such as HIV and liver infections
    • Low levels of vitamin B12 or other problems with your diet
    • Poor blood flow to the legs
    • Underactive thyroid gland

    Drugs and toxins may damage nerves. One example is heavy alcohol use. Glue, lead, mercury, and solvents may damage nerves. Drugs that treat infections, cancer, seizures, and high blood pressure may cause nerve damage.

    Pressure on a nerve near a body part may be a cause. An example is carpal tunnel syndrome.

    A bone fracture or other trauma may damage a nerve. Being exposed to cold temperatures for a long period of time may too. Pressure from bad-fitting casts, splints, a brace, or crutches can damage a nerve.