Pain sensation is a part of life. It is a necessary feedback sent to our brain that tells us to avoid things that are potentially harmful to us.
It alerts us when there is something wrong in our body.
When pain is present and no apparent cause for it to occur, chances are that the nerves are the problem. Such a condition is called peripheral neuropathy.
Peripheral Neuropathy Symptoms
Peripheral neuropathy is a disorder of the nerves responsible for the transmission of information between the body, the brain and spinal cord. It is a common condition among the old age group.
It generally affects the nerves in the hands and feet although other parts of the body may be affected as well. Symptoms depend on the type of nerve affected; namely the sensory, motor, and autonomic nerves.
Peripheral neuropathy symptoms may include tingling in the hands and feet which may spread to the legs and arms, as well as gradual numbness, stabbing and burning sensation, extreme sensitivity to touch, muscle weakness and lack of coordination of sensory and motor nerves.
If autonomic nerves are affected, symptoms may include intolerance to heat, bowel or bladder problems, and changes in blood pressure levels which can cause dizziness or lightheadedness.
Peripheral Neuropathy Causes
The condition is caused by a number of factors. These may include physical trauma, use of certain drugs, vitamin deficiencies, exposure to poisons or toxins, and infections.
There are also cases where no specific cause can be identified. This is known as idiopathic peripheral neuropathy. The most common cause however, is diabetes.
Peripheral Neuropathy Treatment Methods
Some methods of treatment may completely reverse the condition but for a more serious case, the treatment performed will usually only slow the progression, control the symptoms, and make the condition more manageable.
Treating the condition relies largely on the cause.
The following are some common options when it comes to course of treatment for peripheral neuropathy:
1. Early diagnosis
Technically, diagnosis is not a treatment but it is perhaps the most important thing to do since peripheral nerves have limited capacity to regenerate.
Even if the cause of the condition is not really serious, not being able to diagnose the condition may have it worsen until it is too late to reverse the damage done. Therefore, it’s very important to consider early diagnosis.
2. Pain relievers
With all the discomfort to bear, you’ll likely seek for relief from the inconvenient feeling of needles and pins stabbing your feet and hands.
Over-the-counter pain medications can relieve mild symptoms but for more severe symptoms, your doctor may prescribe stronger medication.
3. Skin patches
Doctors may also prescribe skin patches that contain local anesthetic lidocaine for temporary relief from pain. These are cut to the desired size and placed on the affected area.
4. Treating the underlying cause
The doctor will likely prescribe medication to treat the underlying cause of the neuropathy.
If the causative condition has been diagnosed early, it will be possible to manage neuropathy better.
5. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
This therapy involves adhesive electrodes placed on the skin.
A gentle electric current at varying frequencies is delivered to the body. TENS is applied for 30 minutes daily for about a month.
6. Physical therapy
Peripheral neuropathy may also affect motor nerves which control how your muscles move. In that case, there could be muscle weakness.
Physical therapy is very useful in improving and promoting movement. Use of mobility aids such as canes and walkers are also a big help in managing the condition.
This alternative medicine is a key component of traditional Chinese medicine. It involves the insertion of very thin needles through the skin into strategic parts of the body.
Placing these needles on the body stimulates the nerves, muscles and connective tissues. This will result to the release of natural painkillers in the body. Improvement may not be immediately apparent and multiple sessions will be needed.
Make sure to go to a certified practitioner using sterile needles to be safe.
Herbs have been used effectively by our ancestors to treat various diseases so why not use them to treat peripheral neuropathy? In fact, there is a growing number of people who subscribe to the belief that herbs are better than most medicines because it’s natural and organic.
The use of evening primrose oil can help reduce neuropathy pain in patients suffering from diabetes but its use could counteract other medicines. To be safe, consult your doctor first.
9. Fish oil
Supplements with omega-3 fatty acids can help diabetic patients suffering from neuropathy as these may reduce inflammation, improve blood flow and improve neuropathy symptoms.
Check with your doctor first if you are taking anti-clotting medication.
10. Lifestyle changes
This last method can also be taken as a prevention measure. It is undeniable that the most common cause of neuropathy is diabetes.
Diabetes is easily prevented if we live a healthy lifestyle. It follows that if the cause is prevented, then there is no neuropathy to worry about.
Lifestyle changes for diabetic patients may not reverse the nerve damage but living with the condition becomes more manageable.
• Proper care of feet
Make sure to wear comfortable shoes and soft cotton socks. It is also advisable to daily check your feet for blisters, cuts, and calluses. Serious complications can be prevented if this simple step is followed.
Thirty minutes of walking three times a week can go a long way towards relieving neuropathy pain, improving muscle strength and helping control blood sugar levels. You can also opt for gentler exercises that are both relaxing to the body and mind. Tai chi and yoga are good exercises for patients of all ages. Consult your doctor for advice on which exercise is best for you.
• Quit smoking and limit alcohol intake
Both activities can worsen neuropathy symptoms so it’s best to do away with both.
• Eat healthy meals
Not eating the right stuff placed you into the condition in the first place. Get back on the right track and start making wise choices with your food options! Keep your nerves healthy by eating lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grain, dairy, and lean meat. Eating these kind of food ensures that your body is getting the essential vitamins and minerals it needs.
• Lastly, avoid factors that could cause nerve damage
Factors that could lead to nerve damage include repetitive motions, cramped positions and exposure to chemicals.
- READ MORE