Recently, we asked our neuropathy patients to ask us questions about what bothers them most about peripheral neuropathy and chronic pain. Not surprisingly, a lot of the questions were the same:
“How can I treat my neuropathy if I don’t know what caused it?”
“I’m not diabetic, all my lab values are just borderline, so my doctor says I am OK, and I couldn’t have neuropathy. How can this be?”
… and so on.
We also hear, “All my doctors do is give me medications. I feel great when I take my medications, but I am sleepy all the time and I have side effects like diarrhea, nausea, and dizziness.”
As you probably know, treating peripheral neuropathy can be very challenging. The reasons for this are multiple. Unfortunately, there is a great deal of misinformation regarding the treatment of peripheral neuropathy.
So what I would like to do today is dispel a couple of myths and give our guests some opinions!
• Do not wait for a complete understanding as to what might have caused your neuropathy before you begin to treat it. The reason for this is very simple. The vast majority of peripheral neuropathies are what is called idiopathic; meaning we are not 100% sure what the cause is. The reality is, the vast majority of idiopathic cases do in fact turn out to be what is called metabolic syndrome-or, quite simply, obesity. Even being as little as 20 pounds overweight, and having a diet that is too high in refined sugars can lead to elevated blood sugars and other lab vitals that, over time, can cause peripheral neuropathy. Many doctors are simply unaware of this fact, so patients go years before any corrective action is taken.
• The next thing to understand is that very rarely does drug therapy alone help peripheral neuropathy. For example, some drugs, especially early on, may help calm symptoms-but only to a point. Then virtually every medication has side effects to deal with. Now this is not to say that drugs do not have a place; they certainly do. But when drug-only symptomatic therapy is employed at the expense of leaving out things like proper physical therapy, fitness, and dietary corrections, the net result is the worsening of neuropathy over time.
• One of the most frustrating things about peripheral neuropathy, for both patients and doctors, is that you may never know with 100% certainty what caused your neuropathy. So, the best advice I can give you is to focus upon factors you can correct-like obesity, poor diet, activity levels, et cetera.
If your neuropathy has progressed to the point that significant pain and disability has resulted, usage of medication judiciously is fine, but also make sure that newer treatment methods such as laser & LED therapy, advances in nutrition science, and advanced neurostimulation are all employed.
As frustrating as peripheral neuropathy is, it is imperative that you understand our chief objective is to help you improve your quality of life. No, this is not an easy task. Quite frankly it is enormous.
It becomes even more challenging when there are complications including other illnesses, bad family history or genetics, and so on.
Always remember, we are here to help you. Treating peripheral neuropathy, like most forms of chronic pain, is a work in progress.
It does require due diligence, and significant cooperation between professionals and patients.
I am here to support YOU!