Hereditary disorders play a role in producing symptoms of peripheral neuropathies. An example of hereditary disorders is the Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease or peroneal muscular atrophy, an autosomal dominant disease wherein the muscles of the legs located below the knee become weak and waste away. It is the most common hereditary neuropathy.
Some systemic and metabolic disorders also have diabetic neuropathy as one of its complications. Disorders of this type include diabetes mellitus, vitamin deficiencies – specifically vitamin B12, alcohol abuse, kidney diseases like uremia, and cancer. An excessive amount of unwanted toxins — which was either entered the bloodstream voluntarily or involuntarily — or a deficiency in essential nutrients in the body are the primary causes of peripheral neuropathy in these diseases. In diabetes, the excessive levels of blood glucose retained for a long period of time set off the neuropathy. A shortage in vitamin B12 also causes a neuropathy, as well as the chronic intake of too much alcohol, and an excess amount of vitamin B6 can even aggravate the neuropathy. In kidney diseases such as uremia, the toxic waste materials that are left in the blood stream instead of being filtered and excreted have a damaging effect on the surrounding nerves, thus leading to a neuropathy. Cancer produces mutated cells that also affect the nerves to bring about peripheral neuropathies.
Some other causes include infections or inflammatory conditions such as AIDS, wherein the neuropathy is one of the side effects of the medications used to cure AIDS. Hepatitis, Colorado tick fever, Diphtheria, Guillain-Barre syndrome, HIV infection, Leprosy, Lyme disease, Polyarteritis nodosa, Rheumatoid arthritis, Sarcoidosis, Sjogren syndrome, Syphilis, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus and Amyloidosis are other examples of diseases due to inflammatory conditions that have peripheral neuropathy as one of its complications.
Exposure to toxic compounds like glue, nitrous oxide, industrial agents like solvents, heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, mercury, some drug treatments and medications such as those given to HIV patients also can cause this malady. Specific examples of drugs that may cause peripheral neuropathy are didanosine, zalcitabine, stavudine, isoniazid, ethambutol, vincristine, metrodinazole, and dapsone. Sometimes, the risk of getting a neuropathy increases as these drugs are taken simultaneously.
Peripheral neuropathy can also result as a consequence of decreased oxygen and blood flow, prolonged contact with cold temperature, or prolonged pressure on a nerve as seen in the use of casts, splints, braces, and crutches. (Example: stress at the elbow region as a result of being in the same position for too long may affect the ulnar nerve.)
In summary, peripheral neuropathy is caused by several varying illnesses depending on the condition. It is of great importance to be able to identify each one so as to be successful in its prevention, treatments and therapy.