Peripheral Neuropathy can alter your life dramatically. The good news is that there are solutions to manage this condition. The disease affects the peripheral nerves outside the brain and spinal cord. This may lead to common sensations of tingling, burning, or pain in the hands or feet. The condition may also cause numbness in the feet that affects balance.
Who Is At Risk and What Are the Causes of Peripheral Neuropathy
While nerve damage may affect anyone at any age, it is typically common in those over 60. The most common causes are diabetes, alcohol abuse, and autoimmune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Other causes of peripheral neuropathy may be an inherited disorder, infection, metabolic causes like obesity, or physical trauma or fractures that impact nerve function.
How Is Peripheral Neuropathy Diagnosed?
A diagnosis will begin with a physical examination and a blood test to check thyroid levels. The physician may order an imaging test to eliminate the possibility of a herniated disc pressing on a nerve. An EMG test (electromyogram) is another procedure to measure the electrical activity of nerves in the arms and legs. A Nerve Conduction study will highlight the location and pathway of nerve blockage. Occasionally, a nerve biopsy is a different diagnostic portion of the exam.
Reversal of nerve pain is primarily dependent on the initial cause. Nerve pain may heal on its own. For example, if the pain is from an infection, the symptoms will subside once the infection is gone. In other cases, nerve pain may be permanent.
An early diagnosis of Peripheral Neuropathy is critical for optimal treatment results.
Over-the-counter (OTC) medications may prove helpful in relieving mild discomfort. Opioids are generally not a recommendation unless all other treatments fail. Companies developed drugs like Gabapentin and Lyrica initially to treat epilepsy. These drugs may assist in nerve pain relief, but they come with side effects. Some anti-depressants like Pamelor and Cymbalta have been found helpful in managing peripheral Neuropathy.
Creams that include Capsaicin may cause some improvement in nerve pain symptoms. However, this cream causes a burning sensation that some people cannot endure. Patches containing Lidocaine may also offer some relief as an alternative.
TENS units, short for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, deliver a mild electrical current to temporarily relieve nerve pain by disrupting signals of discomfort to the brain.
Physical Therapy is an option to help strengthen muscles that will improve balance. Other options are braces, casts, splints, canes, or in severe cases, a wheelchair may be necessary.
Getting Back to Life
It’s essential to be aware of symptoms of peripheral Neuropathy to gain an early diagnosis. With your pain management physician, you can find an effective treatment plan based on your needs and live your best life!
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