What Makes Neuropathy Flare Up? Avoid These 5 Common Triggers

Neuropathy can flare up due to several different triggers and most of them can be avoided.

There are, however, a few which you can't really avoid, and the primary example of this is where it is genetic condition inherited from your parents.

As the old saying goes 'you can't choose your parents,' and likewise, if they pass on a genetic condition to you, hopefully it doesn't make you love them any less.

Another unavoidable trigger is where neuropathy occurs as a result of medication and in particular chemotherapy in relation to fighting cancer.

Obviously, cancer is the much more serious condition of the two, so you certainly should not stop chemo treatment, just to eradicate the neuropathy. Besides, the good news is that once the chemotherapy has ended, the neuropathy should dissipate albeit it may take some months to do so.

While there isn't much you can do to avoid these two scenarios, the next 5 triggers of neuropathy can definitely be avoided, and very importantly in most cases by avoiding them, you will benefit your health in more ways than just stopping neuropathy.

1. Diabetes

This is, without doubt, the number one trigger of peripheral neuropathy, and it’s definitely something that can be avoided, with one major exception.

Man testing his blood sugar levels

People with type 1 diabetes first diagnosed when they were a child will normally be as a result of either  a genetic disorder or in some cases a virus.

With type 1 the horse has obviously bolted in terms of avoiding diabetes, however, that does not mean that you can't do all you can to mitigate peripheral neuropathy. Good blood sugar control is the most obvious, but you can also ensure you exercise your hands and feet regularly, use appropriate creams and lotions, and eat a healthy diet containing lots of nutrients and antioxidants.

For those who do not have diabetes, and in many cases sadly that should be suffixed with the word, 'yet', there is still the opportunity to avoid becoming diabetic and thus prone to all kinds of complications, including peripheral neuropathy.

Prime among the ways of reducing the risk is to avoid being overweight. Excess fat is a huge factor in your body becoming resistant to insulin, and when that happens it almost inevitably means type 2 diabetes is soon part of your life.

Other ways to keep diabetes at bay is to eat a healthy balanced diet, which should also involve you cutting down on the number of processed foods you eat, as these tend to have very high levels of salt and fat, neither of which do your body any good.

Taking regular exercise has a multitude of benefits, but as we are focusing on avoiding diabetes, the main ones which apply are helping you manage your weight, controlling blood glucose levels, and keeping your blood pressure within healthy limits.

Finally, quitting smoking can massively reduce your chances of becoming diabetic. You might question how smoking would have any influence on diabetes, but statistics show that if you smoke, the risk of you becoming diabetic is double that of someone who doesn't smoke.

2. Alcohol

Before we explain further why alcohol should be avoided, you should take careful note that drinking alcohol to excess is a fast track to excess weight and high blood pressure, which both open the door to diabetes, which you'll recall is the No. 1 trigger to avoid.

Alcohol can make neuropathy flare up

At No. 2 we have alcohol, and if you drink it to excess and are lucky enough not to get diabetes, it does not mean that you are immune from peripheral neuropathy.

Alcohol can cause this in a number of ways, with the first being that it directly causes toxicity in nerves, and given neuropathy is a condition where the nerves are a major issue, you literally poisoning them with alcohol will cause damage.

While in a lot of cases the damage done to nerves will be permanent, if the drinking of alcohol is stopped then some of the symptoms have been known to diminish, and more importantly, no further damage is being done to them.

Excessive drinking of alcohol can also cause disorders of the liver and kidneys, and when that happens the body's ability to remove toxins is severely compromised. When these toxins are present in your bloodstream, they can cause the type of nerve damage associated with neuropathy.

The final aspects of excessive drinking, and in particular those who are alcoholic, where their diet will normally be lacking in healthy foods. As a consequence, the levels of nutrients required for healthy nerves, such as Vitamin B, will hasten the onset of neuropathy.

3. A Nutritionally Deficient Diet

It is a fairly basic concept that your level of health and vitality will be very much influenced by the way in which you fuel your body, in terms of the food you eat, and the liquids you drink.

Several people eating unhealthy food

It follows that when the food you eat is not nutritious, your body cannot function as well as it should, and thus ailments and ill health soon appear.

The basics of this obviously apply in terms of your diet affecting your weight positively or negatively depending on what you are eating, and the knock-on effects that can have.

Again, diabetes is high on the list of possible conditions due to excess weight, and there are the other side effects such as high cholesterol and blood pressure.

One of the nutrients that you need to ensure your diet has sufficiently high levels of is Vitamin B, and specifically Vitamin B12. Great sources of B12 are oily fish such as tuna and sardines, eggs, dairy products, and fortified cereals.

Where vitamin B12 plays a big role in your well-being in relation to peripheral neuropathy is in the protection of nerves, and it does this as part of the production of a substance called myelin.

Myelin is a bit like a minder for your nerves and ensures they are kept free from harm. When Vitamin B12 is absent, the myelin is not as effective, and thus damage to nerves can occur. One symptom of low Vitamin B12 is pins and needles in the hands and feet which is a huge sign that peripheral neurology is present.

4. Chemicals and Toxins

The terms chemicals and toxins cover a very large array of substances, so we'll try to narrow it down for you.

Chemicals and Toxins can cause neuropathy flareups

There are basically two types of chemicals and toxins we are going to refer to, and the first are those which you introduce directly into your body.

We are of course talking about narcotics and other chemical abuse such as glue sniffing. Apart from the devastating impact these substances can have on your overall health, they are known to contribute to nerve damage.

You can also ingest undesirable chemicals from certain foods especially those that have been grown using an excessive amount of pesticides and weed killer. Certain fish, such as the puffer fish are also known to contain toxins, which while not poisonous when eaten, can introduce high enough levels of these toxins to cause neuropathy symptoms.

The other way in which toxins can be introduced to your body is through touching them. These can be solid or liquid form, with some of the prime suspects being mercury, lead, ethanol, and solvents.

Whenever you are working with any of these, make sure you take all necessary precautions to avoid prolonged contact or inhalation in terms of fumes that some of them may give off.

5. Infections

Unfortunately, there are certain infections that make your body particularly susceptible to peripheral neuropathy, and thus it is important that you take any measures necessary to avoid them.

Infection on skin

One of the primary ones is human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV. There are two main ways HIV can be acquired, namely unprotected sex, or sharing drugs needles with someone who is infected.

Obviously, prevention of HIV is highly desirable, not just to stop it causing neuropathy, but for avoiding the more dangerous illness of AIDS should HIV can cause.

Another viral infection which can cause neuropathy is herpes, which is transmitted in all sorts of ways including kissing, sharing utensils, and sexual contact. You can be infected without actually knowing it, but in most cases, there will be obvious symptoms such as a sore on the affected area. To avoid herpes never share personal items like toothbrushes and wash your hands regularly.

Other infections that can induce neuropathy, and you will want to avoid for all kinds of other reasons include Lyme disease, which is passed on by ticks, the varicella virus, which can be responsible for chicken pox, and the cytomegalovirus which can infect people of ages, and once you have it, it's there for life, even if it doesn't produce any symptoms.