Peripheral neuropathy is a difficult to treat, painful condition that can reduce a person’s quality of life. It is a result of malfunctioning nerves caused by damage or destruction of nerve tissue. The disorder often results in numbness, tingling, and pain. The challenge of peripheral neuropathy is finding an effective treatment. Many individuals are unable to find relief without using multiple treatment options simultaneously. Thankfully, peripheral neuropathy research is helping us learn more about this condition and how to treat it effectively.
Here at Freedom Health Centers we focus on treating patients with a number of illnesses and disorders. It’s often difficult to find treatment options that don’t carry the risk of side effects from medication or long recovery times after surgery. Thankfully, we offer several treatments that help many people manage or eliminate their pain.
One of the difficulties with effectively treating peripheral neuropathy is that there are so many types of the disorder. Each type presents with unique symptoms and responds better to specific treatment options. We help you get to the root of your pain and find the treatment combination that will work for you.
Why Do We Need Peripheral Neuropathy Research?
Peripheral neuropathy is notoriously difficult to treat. This is because there are three types of peripheral nerves. They include:
- Motor nerves, connected to your muscles
- Autonomic nerves, connected to your internal organs
- Sensory nerves, connected to our skin
This life-altering disorder can affect any one of these nerve groups or any combination of these. Then this happens, the patient often feels tingling, numbness, or pain in the hands or feet. It’s also common to have a weak or heavy feeling in the extremities which is sometimes accompanied by a shocking sensation. Other symptoms include drops in blood pressure, poor motor skills, skin thinning, digestive problems, excessive sweating, and sexual dysfunction.
The neuropathy is often caused by diabetes. In fact, the Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy states:
According to the University of Chicago’s Center for Peripheral Neuropathy (UCCPN), nearly 60 percent of people with diabetes have some sort of nerve damage. This damage is often due to high blood sugar levels.
But diabetes isn’t the only factor. There are also other chronic diseases that may result in nerve damage including kidney disorders, hypothyroidism, inflammatory diseases and disorders, as well as vitamin deficiencies.
Injuries are another common cause of nerve damage. Most people don’t realize it, but even carpal tunnel syndrome is a form of peripheral neuropathy. This is due to the increased pressure on the median nerve in the wrist.
The list of potential causes of peripheral neuropathy is massive. It’s important that we pursuit research in the field to help understand why so many things can lead to nerve damage and what we can do to prevent it as well as treat it effectively.
Advances in Peripheral Neuropathy Research
Recent advances in peripheral neuropathy research provide hope for the treatment and prevention of the painful disorder. The Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy goes on to report:
In September 2017, we reported that Dr. Sandra Rieger had received a National Institutes of Health (NIH) research grant to continue her study of nerve regeneration and peripheral neuropathy. In this study, she noticed a connection between nerve degeneration and an increase in a certain enzyme in zebrafish when they were administered a common chemotherapy agent. This nerve degeneration is similar to what happens with peripheral neuropathy. Her further study led to her discovering two compounds that seemed to prevent or reverse the activity of this enzyme.
In February 2018, Dr. Rieger reported that the previous research may be applied to other health issues as well.
The same enzyme activity present with nerve degeneration due to the chemical agent is also present in diabetic neuropathy. One of the compounds which tested positively in preventing nerve damage in zebrafish also tested positively in preventing nerve damage in mice. While more study is needed, Dr. Rieger believes this research could translate to better understanding of the causes and prevention of peripheral neuropathy in humans.
It will be interesting to see how the peripheral neuropathy research progresses and what new treatment and prevention options result for those experiencing or at risk of developing peripheral neuropathy. In the meantime, if you suffer from the disorder it’s important to analyze your symptoms and find a treatment plan that can once again make your life enjoyable.
Current Treatment Options for Peripheral Neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy is diagnosed with a physical exam and asking questions about your medical history. Blood tests measure blood sugar levels as well as thyroid and vitamin levels. You may even have a CT scan or MRI to see if the pain is the result of a herniated disk, tumor, or anything else which may be placing pressure on a nerve. In rare cases your doctor may request a nerve biopsy. Your doctor may also run additional tests to test nerve function.
Current treatment is based on treating any underlying disorder. For example, if the patient has diabetes then controlling glucose is the single most important thing they can do to manage their neuropathy. Patients with a vitamin deficiency will need to correct the deficiency to begin controlling their neuropathy.
In many cases, a combination of treatments is used to help provide relief. These combinations may include taking medication along with drug free options such as transcutaneous electronic nerve stimulation, casts or splints, chiropractic care, acupuncture, or massage.
If your neuropathy is the result of a treatable condition you may be able to resolve the neuropathy completely. However, if it’s the result of something else then the best you can do is work with your health care team to manage the symptoms as effectively as possible.
In either case, the professionals at Freedom Health Centers are here for you. We will listen to your concerns and help you find an effective treatment option for your pain. We stay up to date on the latest peripheral neuropathy research and want to help all of our patients overcome this uncomfortable, painful disorder.