Navigate Up

Neurology Center - A-Z Index

#
J
Q
X
Y
Z

Print This Page

Metabolic neuropathies

Metabolic neuropathies are nerve disorders that occur with diseases that disrupt the chemical processes in the body

Alternative Names

Neuropathy - metabolic

Causes

Nerve damage can be caused by many different things. Metabolic neuropathy may be caused by:

  • A problem with the body's ability to use energy, often due to a lack of enough nutrients (nutritional deficiency)
  • Dangerous substances (toxins) that build up in the body

Diabetes is one of the most common causes of metabolic neuropathies. People who are at the highest risk of nerve damage (diabetic neuropathy ) from diabetes include:

  • Those with damage to the kidneys or eyes
  • Those with poorly controlled blood sugar

Other common causes of metabolic neuropathies include:

Some metabolic disorders are passed down through families (inherited), while others develop due to various diseases.

Symptoms

These symptoms occur because nerves cannot send proper signals to and from your brain:

  • Difficulty feeling in any area of the body
  • Difficulty using the arms or hands
  • Difficulty using the legs or feet
  • Difficulty walking
  • Pain, burning feeling, pins and needles feeling, or shooting pains in any area of the body (nerve pain)
  • Weakness in the face, arms, legs, or other area of the body

Usually, these symptoms start in the toes and feet and move up the legs, eventually affecting the hands and arms.

Exams and Tests

An exam may show:

  • Decreased feeling (may affect touch, pain, vibration, or position sensation)
  • Reduced reflexes (most common in the ankle)
  • Muscles becoming smaller (atrophy)
  • Muscle twitches (fasciculations)
  • Muscle weakness
  • Loss of movement (paralysis)

Tests used to detect most metabolic neuropathies:

  • Blood tests
  • Electrical test of the muscles (EMG )
  • Electrical test of nerve conduction

Treatment

For most metabolic neuropathies, the best treatment is to correct the metabolic problem.

Vitamin deficiencies are treated with diet or injections. Abnormal blood sugar or thyroid function may need medication to correct the problem. Alcoholic neuropathy is treated with alcohol abstinence.

In some cases, pain is treated with medications that reduce abnormal pain signals from the nerves (duloxetine, gabapentin, pregabalin). Lotions, creams, or medicated patches can provide relief in some cases.

Clinical trials of new medications include antioxidants, neuroprotectants, insulin-like drugs, and aldose reductase inhibitors.

Weakness is often treated with physical therapy. You may need to learn how to use a cane or walker if your balance is affected. You may need special braces on the ankles to walk better.

Support Groups

For additional information and support, see www.neuropathy.org and http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/DM/pubs/neuropathies .

Outlook (Prognosis)

The outlook mainly depends on the cause of the disorder. In some cases, the problem can easily be treated. In other cases, the metabolic problem cannot be controlled, and nerves may continue to become damaged.

Possible Complications

  • Deformity
  • Injury to feet
  • Numbness
  • Pain
  • Trouble walking
  • Weakness

Prevention

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can reduce the risk of neuropathy.

  • Avoid excess alcohol use.
  • Eat a balanced diet.
  • Visit the doctor regularly to find metabolic disorders before neuropathy develops.

If you already have a metabolic problem, regular doctor visits can help control the problem and reduce the chance of further nerve damage.

Patients who already have metabolic neuropathy can reduce the risk of some complications. A foot doctor (podiatrist) can teach you how to inspect your feet for signs of injury and infection. Proper fitting shoes can lessen the chance of skin breakdown in sensitive areas of the feet.

References

Shy ME. Peripheral neuropathies. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 446.

Montfort EG, Witte A, Ward K. Neuropathic Pain: A Review of Diabetic Neuropathy. US Pharm. 2010;35(5):HS8-HS15.

Updated: 2/10/2014

Joseph V. Campellone, M.D., Division of Neurology, Cooper University Hospital, Camden, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.


¬©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com