Drug Induced Polyneuropathies Neuropathy Secondary To Drugs

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Neuropathy secondary to drugs is a condition in which there is a loss ofsensation in a part of the body, associated with the use of a medication thatcan damage nerves.

What is going on in the body?

Neuropathy is caused by toxic effects of certain medications on the peripheralnerves, or nerves that are not in the brain or spinal cord. The normal functionof the nerves is blocked due to the damage to part of the nerve. The personexperiences abnormal sensations, including numbness or chronicpain. Examples of medication that may cause neuropathy include:

  • heart or blood pressure medications, such as amiodarone or hydralazine
  • chemotherapy medication used to fight cancer, such as vincristineor cisplatin
  • antibiotics used to fight infection, such as metronidazole, isoniazide,and nitrofuantoin
  • anticonvulsants used to prevent seizures, such as phenytoin
  • medications used to prevent alcohol use, such as disulfiram
  • What are the causes and risks of the disease?

    Neuropathy is not contagious.

    Symptoms & Signs

    What are the signs and symptoms of the disease?

    Symptoms of neuropathy include:

  • numbness
  • tingling
  • loss of sensation
  • abnormal sensations, such as chronic pain
  • These sensation changes usually begin in the hands or feet, and progress towardthe center of the body.

    Diagnosis & Tests

    How is the disease diagnosed?

    A complete history and physical examination is needed to diagnose neuropathy.Special studies such as electromyography and nerveconduction velocity tests can measure how fast signals travel downthe nerves.

    Prevention & Expectations

    What are the long-term effects of the disease?

    The major long-term effect is chronic pain, which can be disabling. Aperson with neuropathy is at risk for injury because of a decreased ability tofeel.

    Treatment & Monitoring

    What are the treatments for the disease?

    Once the neuropathy is diagnosed, the medication causing the problem may bestopped, reduced in dose, or changed to another medication.

    Pain caused by neuropathy may be treated with medications that are normallyused to control seizures, depression, or pain. Sometimes topical agents on theskin are used. These agents may actually increase the pain in the beginning oftreatment. Then, a person may feel a decrease in the pain associated with theneuropathy.

    A person with loss of sensation should be instructed on safety measures toprevent injury. He or she should regularly examine the affected area for injuryand seek treatment as needed.

    What are the side effects of the treatments?

    Side effects depend on the medication used, but may include allergicreactions and drowsiness.

    What happens after treatment for the disease?

    Unfortunately, treatments are not very effective. Only about 25% of eachtreatment may work each time it is tried.

    How is the disease monitored?

    The health care provider will monitor blood levels of medication used that maycause neuropathy. The goal is to maintain the amount of medication needed totreat the condition, while preventing toxic levels of the medication.

    Article type: xmedgeneral