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Neuropathy: A simple Guide to the Nerve Disorder

Updated on December 30, 2013

Peripheral neuropathy is a disorder of the peripheral nerves, also known as the sensory, motor, and autonomic nerves. These nerves act as connections between the spinal cord and the skin, the muscles, and the internal organs. In addition, Neuropathy usually affects areas such as the arms and the feet, and causes sensations such as numbness, pain, weakness, tingling, and burning sensations. Patients suffering from peripheral neuropathy are either affected gradually, meaning that the condition develops in them slowly, or they are affected severely with intense and varying symptoms. However, much to the dismay of patients, neuropathy is not curable and only treatable.

Neuropathy in 2014

  • To help get a better understanding of neuropathy, here a few facts regarding peripheral neuropathy:
  • An estimated 24 million Americans suffer from peripheral neuropathy
  • 30% of all neuropathy cases are linked to diabetes. Diabetics suffer from diabetic neuropathy the most and around 50 to 60% of all diabetes patients are at the risk of contracting this condition once in their lifetime
  • 30 to 40% of chemotherapy patients have neuropathy and the condition normally develops after their treatment.
  • 7% of all bariatric surgery patients contract peripheral neuropathy and the condition is found after the surgery has been performed on the patients
  • It is estimated that every 1 in 3 HIV/AIDS patient suffers from peripheral neuropathy

Causes of Neuropathy
There are various causes of neuropathy. Amongst these are diabetes, inflammation, autoimmune disorders, infections, protein abnormalities, heredity disorders, poor nutrition, alcoholism, and treatments for diseases such as cancer. However, it is quite common to find patients suffering from peripheral neuropathy without any identifiable causes. This type of situation is referred to as idiopathic neuropathy and around 30% of all neuropathy cases are idiopathic in nature.

Symptoms of Neuropathy
While it is hard to single out symptoms that are common in all neuropathy patients and generalize them, there are still some symptoms that almost all neuropathy patients suffer from. These symptoms include sensations such as tingling and numbness in the feet. The sensations then spread out to the hands and the legs too.

Moreover, patients find it hard to walk around without any trouble once the symptoms start playing their role in the body. The legs feel as they have some added weight and the overall balance of an individual is lost. Similarly, due to a loss of sensation, patients find that they cannot use their hands properly. For instance, you might feel that you have something in your hands held tightly enough, yet, that object may fall down as if there wasn’t a grip on it in the first place. In addition, peripheral neuropathy can also prove to be highly fatal in some circumstances.

Diagnosis of Neuropathy
Due to the variable nature of its symptoms, peripheral neuropathy is quite a tough medical condition to diagnose. Different diseases have to be first ruled out to ensure that the symptoms are not present because of them. Moreover, patients also have to take several tests for doctors to be able to diagnose neuropathy successfully.

Ibuprofen/Aspirin
Analgesics such as ibuprofen, aspirin and acetaminophen are able to treat mild to moderate neuropathy pain and are recommended for persistent bearable pain.

Anti seizure Medications/Antidepressants

  • Anti seizure medications such as gabapentin, pregabalin, carbamazepine, phenytoin and topiramate are also prescribed by doctors to give pain relief from persistent throbbing and aching pain.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants are used to treat unbearable pain, which cannot be treated well by antiseizure medications or analgesics. Though the pain relief is temporary, these types of medications are effective in reducing the intensity of peripheral neuropathy pain. These include amitriptyline and nortriptyline.

Capsaicin Cream
Topical medications include usage of lidocaine patches on the pain site and using capsaicin cream on the pain area at least two to three times a day to relieve persistent nerve pain.

Vitamin D
One of the world’s trusted professionals on Vitamin D, Dr. Michael Holick stated that our ability to get Vitamin D via sunlight decreases as we age. Thus, a 70-year old who has a 70% reduced ability of obtaining Vitamin D will seem to have higher chances of getting peripheral neuropathy compared to a 20 year-old who is healthy enough to get all the vitamin D from sunshine that he needs. Therefore, the older we get, the more we need to indulge on foods that can provide Vitamin D. Taking in supplements would also be necessary to help us maintain healthy bones, muscles and nerves. Address Vitamin D Deficiency with Foods to help prevent and lessen the pain that peripheral neuropathy brings.

Here are some of the basic foods that we can add in our daily meals that can supply us with the required amount of Vitamin D.

Sockeye Salmon – Twice the amount of Food and Nutrition Board’s recommended Vitamin D is provided in a 3-oz. serving of sockeye salmon. Also serving a baked salmon gives 75% of selenium that our body needs in a day, which is essential to prevent oxidation stress.

Beef Liver – Aside from soothing chronic muscle pain brought by nerve distractions, working beef liver into your diet will help you reduce inflammation in the joints and better your immune system. Together with recommended treatments and having a good amount of beef liver’s important nutrients, those suffering from nerve pains will find themselves on their active feet again.

Eggs – Eating the yolk portion of a large egg will provide you with 10% of the 400 IU of Vitamin D that a person needs in a day. Eggs will also help you stop those debilitating chronic pain and speed up your healing process.

Milk – Drinking a glass of fortified milk will supply you with 115 to 124 IU of Vitamin D. The Vitamin D that milk can supply is also crucial to facilitate calcium absorption in bones and intestines. People with nerve ailments and muscle injuries can drink milk to expedite the reduction of inflammation and promote appropriate cell growth.

Along with the listed foods above, emphasize your intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Vitamin D, which is a fat-soluble vitamin, can be supplied naturally by very few foods. As we age, we will indeed feel the appalling ailments that have started in our childhood. Therefore, today, get out of your hole and see the beautiful sun. If you are one of those people who are suffering from muscle pains and neuropathy, eating Vitamin D-rich foods will undoubtedly speed up your recovery process. Positive disposition is great to go hand in hand with all these Vitamin D-rich foods and supplements.

Light and Low Intensity Exercises
Exercise is crucial for physical fitness and even more so for people suffering from peripheral neuropathy. However, types of exercise that may be considered appropriate for some people may not be permissible for people suffering from neuropathy. As the nerves in the body become weak and cause intense pain when suffering from neuropathy, indulging in intense physical activity may serve to make the condition worse instead of better. Thus, it is suggested that patients incorporate some form of light exercise into their daily routine. Exercises such as swimming or riding a stationary bike can not only help stimulate the muscles, but they can also help speed up the recovery process. Moreover, exercise helps divert attention from the daily hassles of life and reduces stress by a significant amount as well.

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