Living With Neuropathy
What is Neuropathy?
Neuropathy is a disorder that results from damaged or destroyed peripheral nerves. Peripheral neuropathy and diabetic neuropathy are the two most common types of this disorder. Peripheral neuropathy can affect different parts of the body, although hands and feet are the two most common areas. Diabetes can damage the nerves, causing diabetic neuropathy. Both types of neuropathy are equally painful and disruptive to an active life.
There are many reasons why the peripheral nerves become damaged. Diabetes is the most common cause, but alcoholism and chemotherapy can also cause it. So can injuries and infections like shingles or hepatitis. Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus can also produce it, as can exposure to certain toxins.
The most common symptom of neuropathy is numbness and tingling in the hands or feet. Neuropathy foot pain is particularly hard to deal with, since it can make it difficult and painful just to stand up or walk. Other common neuropathy symptoms include:
- A buzzing feeling ranging from itchy to shocking
- Feeling of heaviness or weakness in legs and arms
- Excessive sweating
- Always dropping things
- Thinning skin
Some people are able to get relief from OTC nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen. For more severe pain, the doctor may prescribe a painkiller such as Oxycodone, but be aware that opiate derivatives are very easy to become addicted to. Gabapentin and Lyrica, anti-seizure medications, can help, as can some antidepressants. TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) is a process that delivers a mild intermittent electric current to the affected nerves, and it has helped some patients.
Acupuncture has been reported to help reduce the pain, but it requires patience since the effects of acupuncture usually can’t be felt right away. Herbs like evening primrose are used, but make sure to tell your doctor if you decide to use herbs, since some of them interfere with prescription meds.
Capsaicin, the heat-producing component of chili peppers, can be used topically to reduce pain, and studies are being conducted on the effectiveness of cannabinoids – the non-psychoative ingredient in marijuana.
Gentle exercise can help by strengthening muscles and lowering your blood sugar, so consider yoga or tai chi. If you drink alcohol, be moderate. If you smoke, quit. Try to eat a healthy diet with fresh unprocessed foods in it. And if you have neuropathy in your feet, wear soft socks and padded shoes, and don’t forget to check the soles of your feet for cuts or blisters, since numbness can mask or hide their presence.