The Diabetic Companion on Neuropathy Primer - Part 4 Neuropathy Risk Factors


Neuropathy risk factors? To know them is crucial for there are no treatments for diabetic neuropathy. Therefore understanding the modifiable ones is a must. Knowing them will help us identify what we can do to lower the risks. While it is true there are neuropathy risk factors beyond our control, there are more that we can work on to avoid.

Let us start with the risk factors that are beyond our control:

Family history of neuropathy - This is hereditary and there is nothing we can do about it but live healthy anyway.

Age is something we cannot do anything about either. As diabetics grow older so does their risk to neuropathy but as on the family history, living healthy could lower the risk somewhat.

Duration of diabetes - The longer the diabetes is on, the more likely it is going to raise the neuropathy risk, but not when the blood sugar is under tight control.

Now let’s go to the neuropathy risk factors that we can change:

1. Diabetes makes one at risk for diabetic neuropathy especially if the blood sugar is not under control. Keeping the blood sugar within target level is still the best medicine although the nerve pain can be managed by medicines.


2. Vitamin deficiencies can lead to nerve damage. There is a study on patients who underwent bariatric surgery and developed peripheral neuropathy. The most important risk factor was found to be malnutrition. In fact, the existence of vitamin B-12 deficiency neuropathy was recognized as early as 1958.

3. Alcohol abuse or too much consumption of this can injure the blood vessels and nerves. When too much alcohol enters the bloodstream, it can make the blood sugar go up just like sweet desserts do. In addition, they raise the levels of bad cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure as well. So it is best to ask the doctor if you have to avoid alcohol to slow down or even prevent the damage to the nerves.

Anyway, even if it is okay to drink alcohol, it should be in moderation. And if there is a concomitant problem with it like smoking, talk to the doctor about effective and safe treatment for it and any problem with alcohol. This is what authorities say: avoid lifestyle factors that can lead to nerve damage like excessive alcohol intake.

In fact, one diabetic tip on what to limit is alcoholic drink. And a study on the veterans, they found a percentage of neuropathy among them is almost certainly caused or made worse by alcohol consumption. They even have a name for it: Alcohol neuropathy which is one nerve disorder connected to alcohol abuse.

4. Autoimmune disorders, like systemic lupus erythematosus, Parkinson’s disease, botulism, and HIV/AIDS and rheumatoid arthritis in which the immune system attacks the tissues can be neuropathy risks.

5. Infections like shingles lead to neuropathic pain which is the result of damage to the nervous system, the two most common causes of which are diabetic neuropathy and herpes zoster (post herpetic neuralgia or shingles).

Guillain-Barre syndrome is a rare inflammatory disorder in which the protective covering of the peripheral nerves is attacked by the immune system of the body. It may also follow Epstein-Barr virus. Most hepatitis C virus-related neuropathies are in the form of tingling or numbness in the extremities.

6. Exposure to toxic substances, poisons and chemicals can lead to peripheral neuropathy. Some causes can include exposure to mercury, lead, thallium and arsenic. Sniffing glue and some organic insecticides can also lead to neuropathies.

7. Some medical conditions like kidney disorders can result in unusually high quantity of toxic substances in the blood that can damage nerve tissue. Some liver diseases also can lead to neuropathies due to chemical imbalances. There is a link between hypothyroidism and peripheral neuropathy. It is said that hypothyroidism can lead to fluid retention in swollen tissues. This exerts pressure on the peripheral nerves.

8. Repetitive physical stress hobbies or work or occupational activities can lead to entrapment neuropathies. Forceful activities that involve flexing of any group of joints for long periods of time can result in irritation that may cause tendons, muscles and ligaments to become swollen and inflamed through which some nerves go through.

Despite the fact that approximately half of the people with diabetes have diabetic neuropathy, it is not the only risk factor involved in this painful condition. But what we do know is that nerves run throughout the body, sending messages to the brain and telling muscles when to move and controlling many systems in the body. And now you also know the neuropathy risk factors.

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The Diabetic Companion on Neuropathy Primer - Part 5 Prevention of Neuropathy

The Diabetic Companion on Neuropathy - A Primer: Part 3 - Neuropathy Symptoms

Diabetes Foot Neuropathy Causes - Part 2 of The Diabetic Companion on Neuropathy

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