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How does nerve damage occur?

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Quick Answer

Common causes of nerve damage include autoimmune diseases, cancer, diabetes, trauma and drug side effects. Additional causes are neuron diseases, malnutrition and infectious diseases, according to WebMD.

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Types of autoimmune diseases that may cause nerve damage include inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis and lupus. Cancer causes nerve damage in a number of ways, such as causing nutritional deficiencies, and cancerous growths sometimes crush the nerves, explains WebMD. Chemotherapy and radiation may also cause nerve damage in some cases.

Pinched nerves in the neck, carpal tunnel syndrome and crushing injuries are types of trauma and compression that cause nerve damage. As diabetes progresses, the risk for nerve damage increases. Around 25 percent of people with diabetes experience nerve damage, states WebMD. Diabetes most commonly causes damage to sensory nerves, resulting in numbness and pain.

Drugs used to treat HIV are also linked to nerve damage. Toxic substances such as lead, arsenic and mercury may also cause nerve damage if ingested, says WebMD. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Lou Gherig's disease are examples of neuron disorders that may cause nerve damage. When the body doesn't have enough vitamins B6 and B12 weakness and burning may occur, which are symptoms of nerve pain and damage.

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