Can People Without Diabetes Develop Peripheral Neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathy is a description of a group of conditions and not a single disease. Neuropathy, which is nerve damage, can be caused by different things and there are various types of neuropathies.

Because 60-70% of people with diabetes have some nervous system damage, there’s a perception that only people with diabetes can develop peripheral neuropathy -- but that’s not true. Because lots of other things can cause the condition, anyone can suffer from peripheral neuropathy.

The basics of peripheral neuropathy

Your central nervous system includes your brain and your spinal cord, and the peripheral nervous system takes messages from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body. Any damage to the nerves in the peripheral nervous system results in peripheral neuropathy.

There are three types of peripheral nerves: motor, sensory, and autonomic. The symptoms you feel with peripheral neuropathy depend on which type and how many nerves have been damaged.

Causes of peripheral neuropathy other than diabetes

There are lots of ways for nerves to get damaged. Some of them include:


Traumatic injuries are one of the most common ways people develop peripheral neuropathy. Car accidents, falls, sports injuries, and even surgeries can all cause injuries that result in peripheral neuropathy.

Repetitive stress

Injuries that are caused by performing the same motion over and over, or repetitive stress injuries can cause peripheral neuropathy. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a well-known type of peripheral neuropathy that develops as a result of repetitive stress.

Autoimmune diseases

If you have an autoimmune disease, your immune system attacks the tissues of your body, and that can cause nerve damage. Lupus and rheumatoid arthritis are examples of autoimmune diseases associated with peripheral neuropathy.

Vitamin deficiencies

Certain vitamins, particularly B-1, B-6, B-12, and vitamin E, as well as niacin, are important for nerve health. People with alcoholism may develop vitamin deficiencies resulting in peripheral neuropathy.


Some medications can cause nerve damage. Chemotherapy and HIV/AIDS medications are most likely to cause peripheral neuropathy.


Shingles, Epstein-Barr virus, West Nile, diphtheria, leprosy, and Lyme disease have all been associated with peripheral neuropathy. Lyme disease, which is a tick-borne disease, is of special concern because incidences of it are rising.

HIV and AIDS can also cause peripheral neuropathy; about 30% of people who are HIV positive have some level of nerve damage.

Exposure to toxins or poisons

Exposure to mercury, lead, or arsenic can lead to peripheral neuropathy. Additionally, some insecticides are associated with nerve damage.

Genetic mutations

You can inherit certain conditions that cause peripheral neuropathy. Genetic mutations can also occur when there’s no family history of a peripheral-neuropathy condition -- when this happens it is called de novo.

Unknown causes

Sometimes, even with intense testing and investigation, doctors can’t identify the cause of a person’s peripheral neuropathy. When this happens it’s called idiopathic neuropathy.

If you have peripheral neuropathy, regardless of the cause, Dr. Joseph Kielur at Mass Ave Chiropractic can design a treatment program that may be helpful. Book an appointment online or by phone for a consultation to discuss your specific situation.

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