Living with peripheral neuropathy is like riding a roller coaster — especially for those recently diagnosed. Managing this painful condition is frustrating at best, and can feel overwhelming at times. Patients often experience changing symptoms and debilitating pain. Learning more about treatment options should be a first step for anyone confronted with this condition, since treatments can go a long way to improving quality of life for those who suffer.
Peripheral nerves are the longest nerves in the body, extending all the way from the hands to the feet. When damaged, common symptoms are pain, numbness or tingling in the hands and feet. Unfortunately, these aren’t the only symptoms. Patients can experience stabbing pains and debilitating weakness.
Today, 20 million people in the United States are affected by this condition, yet many are not aware of how it affects our loved ones. What are the important things you should know about this condition?
1. Diabetes Complication Is the Top Cause of Neuropathy
Diabetes is the leading cause of neuropathy today. Over 70% of diabetes patients develop symptoms. To avoid diabetes manage your blood sugar carefully. This can be a great way to prevent or even reverse the effect of diabetic neuropathy.
2. Frequent Other Causes of Neuropathy
While diabetes is the leading cause of peripheral neuropathy, other causes include vitamin B12 deficiency, alcoholism, chemotherapy, traumatic injury and exposure to toxins. Doctors can find it challenging to determine the cause, and when the cause can not be determined with precision, it’s frequently called ‘idiopathic neuropathy’.
3. Certain Medication Can Damage Nerves
For those suffering from diabetes, the drug metformin can damage nerves. It’s linked in a recent study to vitamin B12 deficiency, which can result in neuropathy.
4. Prevention is Key
While it’s true that some nerve damage is the result of injury or surgery, in some cases neuropathy can be prevented — or at times slowed from spreading. Since diabetes is a major cause of peripheral neuropathy, it is also one of the most preventable diseases associated with it. Watching your diet and getting exercise can help avoid developing diabetes.
5. Pain Includes More than Pain and Tingling
While pain and tingling are common and the easiest symptoms to recognize—they’re not the only ones. There are three types of peripheral nerves: sensory, autonomic and motor. Each can show different symptoms.
Sensory nerve damage causes the frequent pain, tingling and numbness. Motor nerve damage may cause difficulty walking or picking up items, and moving the arms. Autonomic nerve damage affects more of your involuntary functions, like breathing, sweating, blood pressure and more.
6. Your Diet Can Make Your Symptoms Worse
Your diet can either help or hurt your nerves. To improve symptoms, avoid foods with excess sugar, artificial sweeteners and refined grains. These foods can cause strain on your nerves and irritate nerve pain. Studies show that a low-fat diet full of whole foods accompanied by exercise have a positive impact on neuropathy.
Whether you’re new to living with peripheral neuropathy or have been dealing with it for many years, understanding the condition can help you make smarter decisions about your health and well-being.
Treatment Solutions Offered at Our Pain Centers
If you’d like to learn more about peripheral neuropathy or peripheral nerve treatment procedures, request an appointment today with one of our expert physicians in your area!