Peripheral neuropathy refers to a condition that results from damage to the peripheral nervous system—the nerves that connect the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body. Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy usually begin with numbness or tingling in the hands and feet, followed by more severe complications. Many different factors can damage the nerves and cause peripheral neuropathy, including diseases, infections or certain medications. Peripheral neuropathy that is caused by drugs is called drug-induced peripheral neuropathy or secondary peripheral neuropathy 23.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Highly Toxic Chemotherapy Drugs

Many of the chemotherapy drugs used to treat cancer are highly toxic and can kill neurons.

Less Toxic Chemotherapy Drugs

HIV Medications

Several medications used to treat the human immnodeficiency virus, or HIV, carry a risk of inducing peripheral neuropathy. These drugs include:

  • stavudine
  • sold as Zerit; zalcitabine
  • sold as Hivid; ritonavir
  • sold as Norvir; amprenavir
  • sold as Agenerase; zidovudine
  • sold as Retrovir
  • formerly AZT;
  • didanosine
  • sold as Videx

Medications for Other Infections

Drugs used to treat many different types of infection also increase the risk of peripheral neuropathy 23. Leprosy is treated with thalidomide, brand name Thalomid, which can cause peripheral neuropathy.

Other Medications

Heart disease and high blood pressure are sometimes treated with drugs that can induce peripheral neuropathy, such as:

  • amiodarone
  • hydralazine
  • perhexiline
  • indapamide
  • which is sold as Lozol

Dapsone is a prescription drug used to treat certain skin conditions that increases the risk of nerve damage.

The Wrap Up

Iisoniazid, which is sold under the brand name INH, and ethambutol, brand name Myambutol, are two medicines used to treat tuberculosis that sometime result in damage to the peripheral nerves. Heart disease and high blood pressure are sometimes treated with drugs that can induce peripheral neuropathy, such as amiodarone, hydralazine, perhexiline and indapamide, which is sold as Lozol. The medications aurothioglucose, used to treat rheumatoid arthritis; colchicine, prescribed to prevent gout attacks; and cimetidine, used to treat ulcers, have also been shown to cause damage to the peripheral nerves.

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