The causes of peripheral neuropathy are in many cases unfortunately unknown. In fact, the most common cause of neuropathy in this day and age may actually be what’s called idiopathic, meaning of unknown certainty. It’s no longer just diabetes.
In our modern world, we are subjected and exposed to many environmental toxins, including heavy metals. We also are seeing patients surviving cancer and living much longer. Unfortunately, one of the undesired complications of chemotherapy is the development of peripheral neuropathy. We are also seeing patients developing compression neuropathy, such as carpal tunnel, chronic sciatica and back pain and nerve damage associated with conditions like degenerative spinal disc disease and spinal stenosis. Part of this, of course, is because we are living longer and being more active than ever before.
Another common but often overlooked cause of peripheral neuropathy is the use of statin medication, which has expanded exponentially. It’s not too long ago that the statins were heralded to be the cure-all for many of mankind’s greatest diseases and illnesses. This is not the forum to debate the appropriate use of statins but if you or a family member are taking them, you do need to be aware that peripheral neuropathy is a potential complication.
There are other causes of peripheral neuropathy, like kidney disease and hormonal diseases that occur in patients with hyperthyroidism, as well as Cushing’s disease, which affects the adrenal glands and the output of cortisol. Alcoholism can cause peripheral neuropathy, as can vitamin deficiencies, especially deficiencies of thiamin, or vitamin B1. There are still more causes: chronic hypertension, cigarette-smoking, immune-complex diseases, generalized degenerative lifestyles that include obesity, poor diet combined with cigarette smoking, abuse of over-the-counter medications, etc.