Toxins, poisons and chemicals can cause peripheral neuropathy. This can happen through drug or chemical abuse or through exposure to industrial chemicals in the workplace or in the environment (after either limited or long-term exposure). Common causes include: exposure to lead, mercury, arsenic and thalium. Some organic insecticides and solvents can result in neuropathies. Sniffing glue or other toxic compounds can also cause peripheral neuropathy. Certain herbal medicines, especially Chinese herbal medicines, are particularly rich in mercury and arsenic and taking them can lead to peripheral neuropathy.
Because patients may have subtle pain or weakness, it may be difficult to arrive at a specific diagnosis of toxic neuropathy.
SYMPTOMS AND SIGNS
(Not all symptoms and signs may be present.)
- Difficulty walking
EVALUATION AND TESTS
(Not all evaluation and tests may be necessary.)
- Physical examination
- Neurological evaluation
- Nerve conduction velocity test
- Blood test for toxins
- Urine test for toxins
TREATMENT AND THERAPY
(Not all treatments and therapies may be indicated.)
Over-the-counter pain medication for mild pain
For severe pain, take over-the-counter pain medication or prescription drugs used for peripheral neuropathy, on a regular basis—rather than waiting until nighttime when symptoms can become more severe
Eliminate exposure to occupational or environmental toxins
Quit recreational drug habit
Take safety measures to compensate for loss of sensation
Ask your doctor about special therapeutic shoes (which may be covered by Medicare and other insurance).