The condition is “silent” in terms of visibility, but the physical pain of neuropathy can be explained in graphic detail as stabbing, piercing, tingling, and painful numbness.
Believe me when I tell you that even the numbness can be painful; a conundrum that I experience but cannot explain. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to remain silent while in the throes of neuropathic pain.
What is Neuropathy and What are the Symptoms?
Neuropathy is a term that refers to general diseases or malfunctions of the nerves. Nerves at any location in the body can be damaged from injury or disease. Neuropathy is often classified according to the types or location of nerves that are affected. It can also be classified according to the disease causing it. People first become aware of peripheral neuropathy with symptoms often beginning in the feet as a gradual onset of loss of feeling or numbness, tingling or pain.
Types of Neuropathy:
Until I set out to research the topic, I was unaware of the several types of neuropathy:
Peripheral neuropathy affects the nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord. This type of neuropathy affects the extremities: toes, feet, legs, fingers, hands, and arms. Peripheral neuropathy is not a single disease. It’s a general term for a series of disorders that result from damage to the body’s peripheral nervous system.
The peripheral nervous system (PNS) connects the nerves running from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body, the arms and hands, legs and feet, internal organs, joints, and even the mouth, eyes, ears, nose, and skin. Peripheral neuropathy occurs when nerves are damaged or destroyed and can’t send messages from the brain and spinal cord to the muscles, skin and other parts of the body. Peripheral neuropathy can affect multiple nerves (polyneuropathy) or only one nerve or nerve group (mononeuropathy) at a time.
Mononeuropathy can affect multiple nerves (polyneuropathy) or only one nerve or nerve group (mononeuropathy) at a time. This is usually the result of damage to a single nerve or nerve group by trauma, injury, local compression, prolonged pressure, or inflammation. Examples of mononeuropathy are carpal tunnel syndrome, affecting the wrist and hand, and Bell’s palsy which affects facial nerves. Mononeuropathy can also cause pain in the shoulders, thighs, hips, or buttocks.
Cranial neuropathy occurs when any of the twelve cranial nerves (nerves that exit from the brain directly) are damaged. Two specific types of cranial neuropathy are optical neuropathy and auditory neuropathy.
Autonomic neuropathy is damage to the nerves of the involuntary nervous system. These nerves that control the heart and circulation, digestion, bowel and bladder function, sexual response, and perspiration.
What Causes Neuropathy?
There are many causes of peripheral neuropathy, including diabetes (referred to as Diabetic Neuropathy), chemo-induced neuropathy, hereditary disorders, inflammatory infections, fibromyalgia, auto-immune diseases, protein abnormalities, exposure to toxic chemicals (toxic neuropathy), tumors, trauma, injury, poor nutrition such as Vitamin B12 deficiency, kidney failure, chronic alcoholism, and certain medications especially those used to treat cancer and HIV/AIDS. In some cases, however, even with extensive evaluation, the causes of peripheral neuropathy in some people remain unknown, this is called idiopathic neuropathy.
Treatment of neuropathy can consist of over-the-counter pain medication such as acetaminophen, NSAIDs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen; topical medications and TENS treatments (transcutaneous electronic nerve stimulation).
There are many prescription drugs available to treat the condition including low doses of antidepressants. If you or someone you love experiences any of the symptoms related to neuropathy, your first course of action is to see your health practitioner to discuss the best treatment plan. This is also including alternative therapies such as acupuncture and biofeedback.
Severe nerve damage is not usually reversible, but preventive measures can be taken, and the condition can be managed with prompt treatment.
Neuropathy is preventable only to the extent that the underlying condition or cause is preventable. For those with diabetes, studies have conclusively shown that long-term control of blood glucose levels is critically important in preventing the development of neuropathy and other complications of diabetes.
It is especially important that diabetics receive regular check-ups by a podiatrist and endocrinologist. A podiatrist will examine the feet for irregularities, unhealed or slow-healing wounds, ulcers, and fungal infections and will keep toenails trimmed. Patients with varying degrees of diabetic neuropathy may be unaware of painful and potentially dangerous symptoms. Left untreated these conditions could lead to amputation of toes or other limbs. An endocrinologist will carefully monitor patients’ glucose levels and prescribe diabetes medications in doses that will control glucose and insulin levels. Consistent medical checkups are integral to treatment, control, and prevention of further complications.
Take Charge of Your Health:
There is a wealth of current information online about Neuropathy. Learning the causes, symptoms, and treatment is imperative to effectively manage the chronic pain of Neuropathy. Understanding leads to graceful acceptance and facilitates management. Give yourself permission to be gentle with yourself. Exercise as you are able.
Refrain from foods prepared with processed sugar as it causes inflammation. Eat nutritious foods, especially seasonal vegetables, either raw, steamed, or roasted and include plant-based protein if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. Fruit is the perfect choice to satisfy your sweet tooth.
After reading through this information you deserve a treat! You will be happy to note that dark chocolate is so good for you that I encourage you to indulge in small amounts. If you need solid medical proof, I’ve provided you with the following link to read an article written by Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS: https://draxe.com/benefits-of-dark-chocolate/