Merck Manual

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Some Causes of Peripheral Nerve and Related Disorders

Some Causes of Peripheral Nerve and Related Disorders

Type

Examples

Motor neuron diseases*

Hereditary

Acquired diseases that begin suddenly

Polio, infections due to coxsackievirus or other enteroviruses (rare), and West Nile virus infection

Acquired diseases that are chronic

Nerve root disorders

Hereditary

Neurofibromas (soft, fleshy growths of nerve tissue)

Acquired

A herniated disk, infections, injuries, metastatic cancer, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis

Plexus disorders

Acquired

Acute brachial neuritis, autoimmune disorders, damage during delivery in newborns, diabetes mellitus, a hematoma (a pocket of blood), severe injuries (such as those due to high-speed motor vehicle accidents), metastatic cancer, neurofibromatosis (rare), and nerve tumors

Peripheral nerve disorders

Hereditary

Hereditary neuropathies (such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease)

Infectious

Hepatitis C, herpes zoster, HIV infection, Lyme disease, SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), and syphilis

In developing countries, diphtheria, leprosy, and parasite infections

Inflammatory

Ischemic (due to blockage of the blood supply)

Vasculitis (inflammation of blood vessels)

Metabolic

Amyloidosis, diabetes mellitus, vitamin B deficiencies, undernutrition due to chronic excess consumption of alcohol, and kidney failure

Pressure-related (called nerve entrapment syndromes)

Toxins

Arsenic, lead, and mercury

Neuromuscular junction disorders

Various

Botulism in infants, Eaton-Lambert syndrome, myasthenia gravis, and dysfunction caused by exposure to certain insecticides (organophosphate insecticides) or chemical-warfare agents (such as sarin gas and Novichok, which was developed in Russia and has been used in assassination attempts) or by use of certain drugs (such as curare, which has been used to help relax muscles during surgery and to paralyze and kill when placed on the tip of poison darts)

* Motor neuron diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis affect nerves in the brain as well as those in the spinal cord.