Can an Infection Cause Neuropathy?

Can an Infection Cause Neuropathy?

There’s no doubt that infections cause neuropathy. An infection may affect nerves in your central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) or peripheral nervous system (all the nerves in your body). 

Since our team at iMed Regeneration Center provides expert care for people with peripheral neuropathy, this blog focuses on infections that damage those nerves.

Infections that cause peripheral neuropathy

Infections may directly damage one or more nerves, usually when the bacteria or virus causes nerve inflammation. You can also end up with nerve damage when the infection triggers an immune response that attacks the nerves.

Many different infections can lead to neuropathy. They’re listed here by the name of the bacterium or virus responsible for the infection:

Borrelia burgdorferi

This bacterium causes Lyme disease, an infection transmitted by an infected deer tick. Without treatment, Lyme disease progresses through stages, leading to peripheral neuropathy that primarily affects your arms, legs, and face.

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)

This virus attacks your immune system. Without treatment, it causes a condition called acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). A third of people with HIV/AIDS also develop peripheral neuropathy.

HIV may cause nerve damage, or the neuropathy may occur from other infections that develop as the immune system weakens. Some medications used to treat HIV/AIDS may cause peripheral nerve damage.

Varicella-zoster virus (VZV)

VZV causes chickenpox and shingles. After you have chickenpox, the virus stays in your nerves, lying dormant for many years. When VZV reactivates, it causes a painful red rash called shingles. 

During a shingles outbreak, the virus can damage the nerve, causing ongoing pain even after the rash clears up.

Hepatitis C virus (HCV)

The hepatitis C virus primarily causes chronic liver disease, but it can also lead to peripheral neuropathy. The nerve damage may occur when the virus causes inflammation, triggers an immune response, or invades nerves.

SARS-CoV-2

You may not hear about nerve problems caused by SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, but 30% of patients have neuropathy symptoms when they’re diagnosed with COVID. Additionally, a large number of people with long COVID have been diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy.

Mycoplasma pneumoniae

This bacterium causes pneumonia, but it can escape your lungs and damage nerves in your peripheral and central nervous systems.

Neuropathy symptoms

The vast network of nerves running through your body includes sensory, motor, and autonomic nerves. Infections can damage any of these nerves, causing various symptoms:

Sensory nerves

Your sensory nerves pick up information about pain, temperature, pressure, and other senses, then relay the information to your brain. 

When these nerves are damaged, they cause pain and tingling, the most common signs of neuropathy. You may also feel burning sensations and numbness when the nerve suffers severe damage.

Motor nerves

Motor nerves transmit messages from your brain to your muscles. As a result, damaged motor nerves cause muscle symptoms, including pain, cramping, and muscle weakness. Without treatment, ongoing motor nerve damage leads to the loss of muscle mass.

Autonomic nerves

These nerves control essential functions that keep you alive, including your heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, and breathing. 

Autonomic nerve damage causes a wide range of symptoms, depending on the system controlled by the nerve. A few examples include dizziness when standing, sweating too much or too little, and abdominal bloating and nausea.

If you have signs of neuropathy, call us at iMed Regeneration Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, or book an appointment online today.

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