Dr. Andrew’s take on Peripheral Neuropathy

Dr. Andrew’s take on Peripheral Neuropathy

peripheral neuropathy meds

Dr. Andrew’s take on Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy affects an estimated 20 million people in the United States. It results from damage to the peripheral nerves, meaning nerves away from the spine.

In most cases, the nerves commonly affected are in the feet, lower legs, and hands; however in more severe cases it can affect nerves that supply vital organs. In order for me to properly treat peripheral neuropathy, I need to find the cause of the problem as it can vary from patient to patient.

Causes of Peripheral Neuropathy

Type II Diabetes Mellitus: Diabetes is a growing epidemic in our country affecting close to 30 million Americans and that number continues to grow each year. Of those 30 million with diabetes, 60% will develop peripheral neuropathy symptoms. This is usually due to uncontrolled blood sugars.
When a patient’s blood sugar is high for an extended period of time it causes the blood to thicken, hence all the cardiovascular risks that accompany type 2 diabetes. What also happens though is the thickened blood cannot flow through the small blood vessels in the feet and hands reducing the oxygen and nutrients to those cells, more importantly to the nerves in those areas. This lack of nutrients and oxygen causes nerve damage and we begin to see the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.

Autoimmunity: This is the most overlooked and ignored cause of peripheral neuropathy. In simplistic terms, autoimmunity is when your immune system starts attacking the cells and tissues of your own body. Common autoimmunity conditions include Hashimoto’s disease, Celiac disease, and psoriasis. With peripheral neuropathy the white blood cells in your body start attacking your nerves causing damage and painful symptoms.
Medications: Certain medications patients take have side affects of nerve damage, most notably statin drugs. Statins, like lipitor and crestor, damage the nerves by reducing fat throughout the body. One of the most important components of the peripheral nerves is a sheet of fat that wraps around them called myelin. If taking a statin drug, you’re reducing the fat throughout your body, limiting the production of the myelin sheath, again causing nerve damage. Chemotherapy drugs also damage the nerves in our body, which can lead to neuropathy symptoms.
Toxic Exposures: Patient’s that have had long term exposures to toxic chemicals can also develop peripheral neuropathy due to the damage those toxins can cause. People that work in funeral parlors, factories, or shipping yards are at constant risk for exposure to toxic chemicals and must take precaution from exposure.

Neuropathy is a progressive disease, the earlier it is caught and identified the easier and quicker symptoms can be reduced. The longer the condition goes untreated, the higher the risk for severe and sometimes even permanent damage.

The early symptoms of neuropathy are usually pretty mild and can include occasional tingling or numbness in the hands and feet that comes and goes. Over time those symptoms will become more constant. As the nerve damage gets worse patients will start to develop more painful symptoms such as burning pain, sharp, shooting, and electrical type pain. This is when most patient’s decide to start taking action. If those symptoms remain untreated the damage can progress to muscle weakness or atrophy, severe balance disorders, and even complete loss of sensation.

Once the damage to the nerves have caused these severe symptoms we see patients that are unable to drive because they can’t feel the petals, patients unable to walk without assistance because they have very poor balance, and patients become dependent on others to help them with daily activities.

Common Medical Treatment:

The standard medical treatment for peripheral neuropathy is usually a drug of some sort to mask the symptoms. Common drugs used to treat peripheral neuropathy include Gabapentin, Lyrica, Cymbalta and others. The one thing all these drugs have in common is that they are not actually designed to treat neuropathy. They do nothing to help reverse or slow down the damage to the nerves in your feet or hands. They are designed as anti-seizure and anti-depressant medications, designed to work in your brain and literally shut off the communication between the nerves in your feet or hands and the brain so that you no longer perceive the symptoms.

The damage to the nerve continues without you being aware. As the nerve damage continues, the symptoms will return and when they do most likely the medication will just be increased in dosage or you may be put on multiple medications, all designed to mask the symptoms and not address the problem.

Our Treatment Plan:

The first step in our treatment plan here at Living Health Integrative Medicine for peripheral neuropathy is we have to first find the cause of your nerve damage. As stated above these can range from diabetes, autoimmunity, medications, etc. The next step is a comprehensive neurological evaluation to determine which specific nerve fibers are damaged and the severity of that damage so we can individualize a treatment plan for your condition.

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with neuropathy, or you are currently experiencing any of the symptoms discussed above, don’t wait and let the damage continue until it’s too late. Give our office a call and schedule an appointment to have your nerve function checked. If there is damage to the peripheral nerves occurring, the earlier treatment is started the easier it is to correct. You can give our office a call at 410-216-9180.