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Causes of Peripheral Neuropathy


Defining peripheral neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy occurs when nerves are damaged or destroyed to a point where they can’t send necessary messages from the brain and spinal cord to other parts of the body. Learn more about the peripheral nervous system and how peripheral neuropathy can develop in the body.

Common causes of peripheral neuropathy

There are many causes of peripheral neuropathy, including diabetes, chemo-induced neuropathy, hereditary disorders, inflammatory infections, auto-immune diseases, protein abnormalities, exposure to toxic chemicals (toxic neuropathy), poor nutrition, kidney failure, chronic alcoholism, and certain medications – especially those used to treat cancer and HIV/AIDS.

In some cases, however, even with extensive evaluation, the causes of peripheral neuropathy in some people remain unknown – this is called idiopathic neuropathy.

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Alcohol and alcoholism can cause harm to the body and the nervous system. Alcoholic neuropathy can cause permanent nervous system damage.


Autoimmune diseases can attack your immune system and negatively impact your nerves. Nerve damage can lead to peripheral neuropathy.

Chemotherapy-Induced PN

Neuropathy is a common side effect of certain chemotherapy medications and treatments. Once these medications are phased out, neuropathy symptoms may subside or, sometimes, even worsen.


Diabetic neuropathy is the most common type of peripheral neuropathy. In some cases, Diabetes can cause peripheral neuropathy.

Hereditary Disorders

Hereditary neuropathies are frequently known as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, however there are many different types of syndromes and classifications. There are also different tests available to help with diagnosing these.

Idiopathic Neuropathy

When peripheral neuropathy occurs out of nowhere - doctors may refer to it as idiopathic. This is more common for people over 60.

Inflammatory / Infectious

Inflammatory neuropathies are typically caused by infections or autoimmune diseases such as Covid-19, Hepatitis C, HIV/AIDS, Lyme disease and more.

Kidney Failure

Kidney disease can lead to uremic neuropathy, which progresses slowly, affecting 50%-100% of people experiencing kidney disease.

Rx Med-Induced PN

Some medications are more commonly known to lead to neuropathy as a main side effect. This includes chemotherapy, medications to treat HIV/AIDS and more.


Industrial chemicals and drug and chemical abuse can lead to toxic neuropathy. Alcohol, lead, ethanol and certain herbs used in Eastern medicine can lead to peripheral neuropathy.

Vitamin and Nutrition Deficiency

The most common deficiency linked with peripheral neuropathy is vitamin B12 deficiency. Luckily there are ways to test and treat B12 deficiencies.

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Physical Injury and Trauma

Injury that results from car accidents, bike accidents and other physical traumas can lead to damage of peripheral nerves.

Gain a deeper understanding of Peripheral Neuropathy

Related conditions
Explore conditions that are related to peripheral neuropathy and how these conditions may lead to peripheral neuropathy.

Peripheral neuropathy can usually be detected by numbness and tingling in toes and fingers. Read more about how you can identify peripheral neuropathy.

Depending on varying levels of pain, treatment for peripheral neuropathy may be different based on the individual. It’s important to understand many options when considering treatment for peripheral neuropathy.

Explore our resource library

Watch presentations and webinars, read our newsletter and explore educational brochures to help expand your knowledge of peripheral neuropathy.

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FPN's Educational Webinars are available to all!

The Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy has countless resources for PN patients – one great example is our webinars on various topics related to understanding this condition and how you can get your life back on track!

FPN’s educational webinars have proven to help tens of thousands of patients and their caregivers on an annual basis. We record all of our programs and post these webinars online for our constituents to view again at their leisure.