If you have neuropathy—a disease of one or more peripheral nerves that causes numbness, pain and even weakness—you’ll be happy to know that there is help within reach and possibly factors within your control.
There are six main causes of neuropathy, which is now the second main neurological condition, after headache:
1. Diabetes is the most common cause of neuropathy
Diabetes causes about half of all neuropathies. Even pre-diabetes is of concern to physicians because it leads so often to diabetes.
Treatment of the diabetes can slow down the progression of neuropathy—and also help people with all the other things that diabetes can affect, like eyesight, kidney problems, strokes and heart attacks.
If you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, diet and exercise will benefit you greatly.
Yes, too much alcohol can cause neuropathy. But if you abstain from alcohol, your neuropathy shouldn’t get any worse.
3. Chemotherapy-induced neuropathy
Chemotherapy may cause some neuropathies. As long as you don’t need that same chemotherapy again, the neuropathy will be a one-time situation and should not get worse.
4. Kidney failure
Many conditions can cause kidney failure; the most common are diabetes and high blood pressure. There is no easy fix for kidney failure, which means the neuropathy could get worse over time.
5. Inherited causes
Several neuropathies are inherited, or run in families. One of these is Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.
6. Nutritional deficiencies
Vitamin B 12 deficiency (and other vitamin deficiencies) can also cause neuropathy. The B vitamins, vitamin E and niacin are important for nerve health, which means you should eat healthfully and follow a good diet.
Medication for neuropathy pain
If you have neuropathy, it’s not possible to repair your nerves. But much of the time we can offer you pain relief with medication—and guidance to help you prevent the neuropathy from getting worse.
Currently, there are six medications for neuropathy pain. Five of these are off patent, or generic, which make them very cost effective; they are amitriptyline, nortriptyline, duloxetine, venalafaxine and gabapentin. The brand medication is pregabalin.
- Read Dr. Callaghan’s blog, Get the facts about neuropathy.
- Read more about how the University of Michigan Health System treats peripheral nerve disorders and neuropathy.
- Read Diabetes 101: Taking Charge.
- Learn about Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Michigan Health System
Brian C. Callaghan, M.D., is an Assistant Professor, Neurology, at the University of Michigan. He completed his medical degree and neurology residency at University of Pennsylvania Hospital and a fellowship in neuromuscular disease at U-M. He also completed a master’s degree in clinical research at the U-M School of Public Health. His clinical and research interests focus on peripheral neuropathy.
The University of Michigan’s multidisciplinary neuroscience team is made up of more than 70 nationally recognized neurologists, neuroanesthesiologists and neurosurgeons. Leading the way in brain, spine and nervous system care for close to 100 years; patients have access to services that can be found at only a handful of places; as well as innovative treatments with the latest research. Neurology and Neurosurgery at the University of Michigan Health System have been recognized by U.S. News & World Report numerous times for excellence in patient care.