Today’s tip stems from a question I received from a patient named Betsy. It was a basic question I hear a lot: Is neuropathy genetic? The answer is quite simple, but I can see how people might get confused. The simple answer is no — neuropathy is not genetic. The underlying cause of each individual’s neuropathy may be genetic, but the actual neuropathy itself is NOT genetic.
Think of it like this: A father and his two sons each have neuropathy. Even though the father and both sons experience burning in their legs and feet or numbness in their extremities or some other altered sensations like that, the father and one of the sons are overweight and have diabetes. Thus, those two individuals probably have a form of “diabetic” neuropathy. The second son has the EXACT same symptoms, but he is not diabetic like his brother and father. Instead, he had chemotherapy and radiation treatments following a colon cancer bout; thus he likely has a form of chemo or radiation-induced neuropathy.
All three have the same symptoms, but there are different causes. Genetics likely contributed to their being overweight, unhealthy lifestyle choices, etc., but it wasn’t genetics that caused the neuropathy symptoms to present; it was the underlying diagnoses.
Neuropathy is not genetic, but the cause of the neuropathy can be genetic. That’s why not everybody with diabetes has neuropathy and not everybody with neuropathy is diabetic. There are many other factors that determine if you (as an individual) develop neuropathy.