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What Is Lupus Neuropathy?

Although diabetic peripheral neuropathy is the most common cause of neuropathy symptoms, many of the connective tissue diseases can also cause peripheral neuropathy.  One of the more common causes of neuropathy in connective tissue diseases is Lupus or SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus).  This neuropathy, however, differs significantly from diabetic neuropathy. 


Possible Features of Lupus Neuropathy

 

  • Myopathy - Poor functioning or weakness of the muscles
  • Mononeuropathy - Involvement of a single nerve (sensory or motor)
  • Polylneuropathy - Multiple nerves invovled, and may be motor, sensory or sensorimotor.


This will typically involve the peripheral nerves, especially to the feet and hands, but may involve the face or trunk.  The muscle weakness, however, is often closer to the body (proximal) as in the thighs or upper arms.  It is rarely symmetric, differentiating it from the most common presentation of diabetic neuropathy.



Probable Cause of Lupus Neuropathy

Although other causes have been discussed in the literature, the most likely cause of lupus neuropathy seems to be related to a form of vasculitis (or inflammation of blood vessels).  This vasculitis causes decreased circulation to the nerves causing injury to the nerve cells that produces neuropathy symptoms including numbness, tingling, burning, stabbing, shooting or even electrical shocks.

Due to this cause, many with lupus and other forms of neuropathy will have increased symptoms or nerve related pain with a lupus outbreak.  This is even true when neuropathy was not directly caused by lupus itself.

Brandt R Gibson, DPM
Podiatrist, Neuropathy Doctor, Father of 11 and Founder of Mountain West Foot & Ankle Institute