According to a report published in 2017, it is estimated that approximately 20 million people in the U.S. suffer from some sort of Peripheral Neuropathy (PN). Since no one cause is determined for its occurrence, conditions like diabetes, shingles and kidney failure play a significant role in its increase.
Let’s know more about this disease and what treatment options are available to combat PN.
Understanding Peripheral Neuropathy
The peripheral nervous system (PNS) is a part of the nervous system that connects the nerves from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body.
Peripheral Neuropathy (PN), on the other hand, is a condition that occurs when the nerves of the peripheral system are adversely affected or damaged. This condition is so severe that it may result in impaired sensation, weak gland or organ function and other aspects of health.
Since these nerves connect to various parts of the body, there are n types of peripheral neuropathy that affect the humans. For instance, mononeuropathy, mononeuritis multiplex, and polyneuropathy are some of its types.
Peripheral Neuropathy (PN) is diagnosed using blood tests, imaging tests and nerve function tests (NFTs). However, some doctors also use nerve or skin biopsy in determining this disease. Early diagnosis of the disease helps in successfully treating the condition.
Signs and Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy
The primary symptoms of PN include tingling, numbness, burning sensation, pain, increased sensitivity to touch, muscle weakness, and nerve impairment. The other symptoms of peripheral neuropathy include:
- low blood pressure
- bowel incontinence
- excessive or lack of sweating
- constipation, particularly at night
- rapid heartbeat
- loss of ability to identify changes in the temperature
- muscle twitching and cramps
- double vision
- weakness in the fingers
- loss of balance and coordination
- muscle paralysis
- sharp pain, usually in the feet
- thinning of muscles
- erectile dysfunction in men
- difficulty in lifting the front part of the foot and toes
Typically, people who have a family history of PN are the primary suspect of this disease. However, a variety of risk factors may trigger the condition, including obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, vitamin deficiency, and injury. Moreover, infections and autoimmune disorders like herpes, chickenpox, Lyme disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus can also cause peripheral neuropathy.
Treatment Options for Peripheral Neuropathy
As PN is a disease that affects the nerves, treating its underlying cause helps in improving the condition. For instance, if a patient has diabetes, curing their high blood sugar will instantly help in relieving the neuropathic pain. Similarly, if a patient is an alcoholic, abstinence from the substance will help them in getting better.
Other than this, drugs and medications, alternative therapies, and lifestyle changes are some of the most common treatment options for peripheral neuropathy.
- Drugs and Medications
When the symptoms are mild, and the disease is manageable, the doctors may suggest some drugs and medications to the patients. Some of which include:
- Over-The-Counter Drugs
Acetaminophen and Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the most commonly prescribed OTC drugs to treat mild Peripheral Neuropathy (PN). The medications help in reducing mild-to-moderate pain, swelling, fever, stiffness, and inflammation.
These drugs work by reducing the body’s production of an enzyme that conveys pain messages to the brain. When these medications are consumed often, they help the body to fight the pain caused by inflammation and swelling. Also, these OTC drugs also provide general pain relief.
- Topical Treatments
Typically, there are two types of topical treatments used for treating a neuropathic condition, including local anesthetics and analgesics. These topical medications can be in the form of ointments, creams, gels or lotions. As per the ease and preference of the patients, the doctor may prescribe any of these treatments that can be directly applied to the skin.
The substances in these medications get absorbed in the skin and provide quick relief from the pain. One of the most commonly used topical medications is capsaicin cream. This topical analgesic contains chili substance that works miraculously in providing pain relief.
- Alternative Therapies
Even after using painkillers and topical treatments, if the condition does not improve, then, the doctors use therapies to treat the condition. Besides, if the patient is suffering from moderate-to-acute pain, a combination of therapies and medications is useful.
The common therapies for treating Peripheral Neuropathy include:
Biofeedback is a non-invasive, non-drug treatment in which electrode sensors are attached to the patient’s body. These sensors, then, measure the key body functions and help in consciously managing the patient’s body physiological responses.
This therapy also helps in learning ways to control, lessen or prevent certain physical responses such that increase the feelings of stress and pain. With the help of this therapy, many patients have found relief in their neuropathic condition.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) therapy is used relief patients from acute, chronic, and psychogenic pain. This non-invasive treatment is also useful in providing relief from arthritis, back pain, sports injuries, neck pain, etc.
For the treatment of neuropathic pain, this therapy works by restraining pain signals from reaching the brain. In this treatment, small electrode pads are attached to the painful area of the body. Once the pads are attached, light electrical impulses are sent to the body.
The frequency of electrodes intensity is increased until the patient feels the strong but comfortable impact on the body. With few sessions of this therapy, major pain relief can be experienced. Besides, TENS therapy is also useful in stimulating the production of endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers.
- Ergonomic Casts or Splints
Generally advised for the arms, hands, feet, and legs, this therapy is useful for the patients suffering from muscle weakness due to peripheral neuropathy. These splints or casts offer the necessary support to the affected part of the body thereby reducing the pain.
For instance, a splint or cast can keep the affected wrists in a proper position while the patient sleeps. Ergonomic Casts or Splints can also relieve the pain of carpal tunnel syndrome.
This traditional yet useful therapy has found to be one of the best treatment options for Peripheral Neuropathy. In this therapy, needles are inserted into the patient’s body’s pressure points to fuel the nervous system. This discharges endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, in the spine, muscles, and brain, resulting in reduced pain.
- Lifestyle Changes
Another easy and significant treatment option includes making some lifestyle changes in the routine to prevent making the condition worse.
- Avoid alcohol.
- Follow a healthy diet.
- Never skip the exercise.
- Keep the floors uncluttered to avoid tripping.
- Install handrails and use bath mats in the bathroom to avoid slipping.
- Check the temperature of the water with the elbow.
- Always keep on shoes to protect the feet.
- Avoid staying in one position for too long. Take frequent breaks and ensure every part of the body is moved equally.
Despite having several treatment options in-hand, professional consultation is a must to cure any disease of the root. Therefore, before starting any treatment, always consult a doctor for faster recovery.
Contributor Bio – The blog is presented by Sharda Hospital. Sharda Hospital is one of the largest super specialty hospitals in Delhi National Capital Region (NCR).