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Causes of Chronic Neuropathic Pain

Neuropathic Pain Has Several Key Causes


Updated June 10, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Neuropathic pain is pain caused by damaged nerves, or nerves that are not functioning as usual. In some cases, the cause of neuropathic pain is not completely understood, though often it can be traced back to disease or to specific types of nerve damage. Neuropathic pain includes pain caused by both central nerves (those in the brain and spinal cord) and peripheral nerves (those that extend out into the body).

Neuropathic Pain Caused by Disease

In some cases, certain diseases and disorders can cause nerve damage. Diabetes, for instance, can damage peripheral nerves. As a result, people with diabetic neuropathy may feel burning, tingling or numbness in their hands and feet. Some other diseases and disorders that can lead to chronic neuropathic pain include:

Neuropathic Pain Caused by Nerve Damage

Damage to central or peripheral nerves can also lead to chronic neuropathic pain. This damage may be caused by trauma (such as a broken bone), surgery, exposure to certain toxins or severe swelling. Some examples of chronic neuropathic pain caused by nerve damage include:

Other Types of Neuropathic Pain

Unfortunately, some types of neuropathic pain have an unknown origin, or a cause that is not completely understood. In fact, up to 30 percent of chronic neuropathic pain cases fall into this category. Though the cause may not be fully known, the pain is very real. Some examples of this class of chronic neuropathic include:


The Merck Manuals Online Medical Library. Neuropathic Pain. Accessed 12/28/09. http://www.merck.com/mmpe/sec16/ch209/ch209c.html

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Peripheral Neuropathy Fact Sheet. Accessed 12/28/09. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/peripheralneuropathy/detail_peripheralneuropathy.htm

National Pain Foundation. Neuropathic Pain Causes. Accessed 12/28/09. http://www.nationalpainfoundation.org/articles/352/causes

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