Cause And Effect: Joe Morgan’s Polyneuropathy

Premier Health Now

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The recent announcement that Baseball Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan passed away on October 11 sent a wave of grief through the sports community. Though his actual cause of death was not immediately released, complications associated with unspecified polyneuropathy were indicated.

Premier Health Now spoke with clinical neurologist Michael Kentris, DOof the Clinical Neuroscience Institute to learn more about polyneuropathy and how it may have contributed to Morgan’s death.

“If we look at the roots of the word ‘polyneuropathy,’ the first part, ‘poly,’ refers to ‘many,’ and ‘neuropathy’ refers to nerve damage or disorder,” says Dr. Kentris. “Polyneuropathy itself is not usually considered a cause of death, but is typically more of a contributing factor to other health problems.”

A Canary In a Coal Mine

Indeed, Morgan, who was 77 at the time of his passing, also suffered from a number of other health problems, including myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), which is a bone cancer disorder that can occur when the blood-forming cells in the bone marrow become abnormal. This can also lead to low numbers of one or more types of blood cells and the potential development of leukemia.

“Advanced neuropathy often functions kind of like a canary in a coal mine,” says Dr. Kentris. “It’s often a signal that other problems are at work in a person’s body as the root cause. Disorders of the blood cells can cause the development of abnormal proteins in the bloodstream, which can then cause some nonspecific damage to the nerves.”

Dr. Kentris says a number of other disorders can make you more predisposed to the development of polyneuropathy, but thankfully you can take steps to lower your risk.

Diabetes is probably the most common cause, so it’s important to make sure you're controlling the risk factors for that disease,” says Dr. Kentris. “Controlling things such as your weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol can go a long way to helping minimize your risk. Maintaining a regular exercise routine, minimizing alcohol intake, and paying close attention to the types of medications you take can also reduce your risk factors.”

It's easy to get the care you need.

See a Premier Physician Network provider near you.