Causes of Peripheral Neuropathy

There are many causes of neuropathy. Chronic neuropathy can begin when your nerves undergo a state of anoxia. This is a condition in which the nerve is deprived of oxygen. Nerves can also become damaged when they are poisoned by continual exposure to toxic chemicals, which accumulate in the body. There are a variety of reasons why this might happen and, quite commonly, we see a combination of reasons, occurring.

Some of the most common causes are:

Medications can cause Peripheral Neuropathy

1. Medications

Research has revealed that a great deal of medications cause peripheral neuropathy as a side effect. Ironically, even medications prescribed to help with the pain of neuropathy, such as Neurontin and Lyrica, have been shown to worsen the damage to the peripheral nerves over time.
See chart for known medications that can cause peripheral neuropathy.

2. Diabetes

60 to 70 percent of all diabetics will develop peripheral neuropathy. Researchers have long been studying the effects of elevated blood glucose on peripheral nerves. Chronically elevated glucose levels can damage blood vessels that carry oxygen and nutrients to the nerves. This can lead to anoxia—a lack of oxygen to the nerve cells and blood vessels—which can result in poor circulation and nerve damage. This is why most neuropathy sufferers (resulting from diabetes) have not only pain but also abnormal changes in the skin on their legs. These changes can include purple discolorations, extremely dry, flaky skin, and extremely taut skin. All of these things are signs that the skin has lost proper circulation and thus oxygenation and nutrients; it also signifies that the skin is beginning to die.

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3. Surgeries

We don’t normally think of surgery as a bodily trauma or injury, but it is. Any time the tissues of your body are disrupted, whether intentionally or accidentally, the body processes the mechanism as an assault on the tissue. As such, the body will go through the same cascade of healing. It’s not uncommon for neuropathy to develop as a side effect of surgery.

During the course of surgery, nerves might be damaged, either directly (i.e., the nerve is severed or nicked) or indirectly (i.e., the nerve is bruised or the tissue surrounding the nerve is inflamed, leading to nerve compression). For example, the way in which a patient is positioned during a surgical procedure can indirectly cause neuropathy. Maintaining a patient in a prolonged position can hamper circulation and deprive the nerve of oxygen and necessary nutrients. These prolonged periods of positioning can also create an abnormal stretch or compression on the nerve. Any of these situations can lead to nerve damage.

Symptoms of surgical nerve injury can include numbness and tingling or a burning pain, which can be moderate to severe. The symptoms might occur at the surgical site or in the standard areas where one typically observes peripheral neuropathy (i.e., feet, legs, hands, and arms). Sometimes, a person will notice that the symptoms worsen with specific motions or movements, or while he or she is sleeping at night.


4. Chemotherapy / Radiation (CIPN)

Many chemotherapy drugs cause damage to the peripheral nerves resulting in neuropathy. See chart for known chemotherapy medications that can cause peripheral neuropathy.


Causes of Neuropathy

5. Physical Injuries

Physical injuries or any form of trauma—such as car accidents, falls, or sport injuries—can damage a nerve by creating a stretch, compression, or crushing injury. Nerves can also be severed or forcibly detached from the spinal cord, either partially or completely. Less severe traumas, such as fractured or dislocated bones, can cause serious nerve damage by exerting pressure on neighboring nerves. Other forms of nerve injuries can result from disc herniations, protrusion, and bulges resulting in compressed nerve fibers, thereby damaging the nerve and creating neuropathic pain. These are only a few types of injuries that might induce neuropathy.


6. Heavy Metals (lead, mercury, chromium, arsenic, etc.)

Heavy metals have been well documented as being highly neuro-toxic, meaning they have the ability to poison, damage, and even kill nerves. One of the most common heavy metals that people are exposed to is mercury. Mercury has been known to cause illness since the ancient Roman times. According to US governmental agencies, mercury and other heavy metals cause adverse health effects and learning disabilities in millions of people in the United States each year. The elderly and children are especially susceptible.

In the environment, mercury is, by far, one of the most pervasive heavy metals that we are dealing with in the twenty-first century. It can be found in our oceans, soil, water, air, and teeth. It is also used in products, such as, dental amalgams (silver fillings), light bulbs, batteries, paint, and thermometers.

Due to the major pollution and toxic waste run-off occurring in our oceans, lakes, and streams, it is well known that many of our marine wildlife are carrying high concentrations of mercury within their bodies.

Nearly 200 million people in the USA alone still have silver fillings. These fillings continuously release mercury as a toxic vapor, and as much as 80 percent of the vapor enters the body. Until recently, people assumed that the mercury stayed within the filling; it is now known that mercury leaches out of the filling and into the mouth, digestive tract, and nasal passageways every minute of the day.

Hundreds of thousands of medical lab tests identified mercury exposure levels to be ten times greater in people with silver fillings. If you would like to learn more about other diseases and illnesses linked with mercury toxicity, I highly recommend reading, “The Poison in Your Teeth” by Dr. Tom McGuire, DDS. Also, visit to watch the video titled, “The Smoking Teeth.” It’s an extremely interesting eight-minute video that demonstrates the mercury vapor being released from a tooth and the effects that this has on the nervous system and other organ systems in the body. I often play this video when I give public lectures. You will likely find it very enlightening.

7. Environmental Chemicals and Toxins

Toxin accumulation within the body can cause peripheral nerve damage. Toxins are chemicals that we absorb into our body. They come from chemicals and preservatives in the food that we eat (pesticides, MSG, aspartame, etc.), as well as, food and beverage plastic and Styrofoam containers that leach out phthalates, plasticisers and BPA. In addition, we’re exposed to a vast number of these toxins from our drinking water, (chlorine, fluoride, heavy metals), household cleaners, personal care products, makeup, and perfumes and colognes, to name a few.

Our bodies are designed to naturally detoxify unwanted substances daily, as part of normal metabolic functioning. Detoxification is one of the body’s most basic automatic functions—eliminating and neutralizing toxins through the colon, liver, kidneys, lungs, skin, and lymphatic system. Unfortunately, in this day and age, we are bombarded by more chemicals and toxins than any other time in history.  As a result, our detoxification organs have a difficult time keeping up to the demands.

Nerve damage can occur when we are exposed to natural or artificial toxic substances. These toxins are called neurotoxins. Neurotoxins are destructive and poisonous to the nervous system, thereby altering the normal activity of the nerves. This can eventually disrupt and damage nerve cells. The accumulation of toxins within our body has been proven to have a detrimental affect on not only our nervous system but health, in general.

Top 10 List of Most Common Toxins
Environment Household
1. Heavy Metals 1. Aluminium
2. PCB’s. 2. PTFE and PFOAs (Non-stick Cookware – Teflon, Calphalon)
3. Dioxins 3. Chlorine bleach
4. Pesticides 4. Dry-cleaning chemicals
5. Phthalates and Plasticides 5. Household cleaners
6. VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) 6. Ammonia
7. Asbestos 7. Personal care products
8. Chlorine and Chloroform 8. Insecticides
9. Lead, Arsenic 9. BPA
10. Flouride 10. Perfluorinated chemicals (carpet, upholstery stain protection)


8. Malnutrition

When we think of malnutrition, we typically think of third-world countries, where hunger and starvation run rampant.  We don’t commonly think of America, the land of abundance, as being a country stricken with malnutrition, but it is.  In fact, most obese people are malnourished.

Malnutrition can result from an inadequate caloric intake, as in the case of starvation; but what you might not realize is that nutrient deficiencies (vitamins, minerals, and enzymes found in whole foods) can lead to a state of malnutrition.  This is what is referred to as “Modern Malnutrition”— or what should more appropriately be called dysnutrition, for dysfunctional nutrition. It’s caused by the excessive caloric intake of nutrient deficient foods (processed foods, junk foods and fast foods).  These are what I like to call ‘dead foods’.

Malnutrition can occur in the following ways:

a) Lack of nutrients in food and/or processed food
b) Inability of digestive tract to absorb nutrients eaten due to conditions like: Acid Relux, Gluten Intolerance, Celiac disease, IBS
Inflammatory Bowel Disorders (IBD)- Crohns, Colitis, Diverticulitis, etc.

To learn more about causes and effective treatment of peripheral neuropathy, please see our book: Defeat Neuropathy Now…In Spite of Your Doctor          View Book Here