Chances are that if you or someone you love has diabetes you've heard of neuropathy, the condition that affects the body's nervous system. People who suffer from neuropathy can experience all sorts of symptoms resulting from the misfiring of the affected nerves. However, you may be surprised to learn that there are different types of neuropathies one can develop and they are not all the result of diabetes.
Polyneuropathy is the most common type of this disorder and is the result of damage done to the peripheral nerves in the body. These nerves run from the spinal cord to the different muscles, skin, or the internal organs and have the function of controlling movement, motor coordination, and sensation. When these nerves misfire, one can expect to experience unusual nerve pain, numbness, a tingling or a burning sensation in the affected area, they may find themselves hypersensitive to certain conditions or their arms and legs may go inexplicably weak.
Categories of Polyneuropathy
There are several categories of polyneuropathy depending on the exact nerves that may be affected. Acquired neuropathy, which is often the case with diabetics, can be the result of exposure to certain toxins, poor nutrition, an infection, or even sustaining an injury of some kind. Some cases have been reported as a result of an autoimmune disorder.
Hereditary polyneuropathy is the result of a patient being born with a specific gene that carries the disorder. Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease is probably the most common of these types of neuropathies. The disease causes peroneal muscular atrophy as a result of the effect it has on the peripheral nervous system. It is characterized by the slow degeneration of the muscles in the extremities in the body like the lower leg, the foot, hands, and/or the forearms. Patients often complain of a loss of sensation or numbness in these areas.
The third category involves the idiopathic neuropathy, the cause of which is unknown. Idiopathic neuropathies make up a third of all neuropathy cases and usually are found in patients over 60 years of age. This condition has a slow progression and can remain unchanged for extended periods of time.
What Can You Do?
If you've been diagnosed with one of these polyneuropathies, unfortunately, there is no definitive cure or treatment that can stop the progression of the disorder when symptoms are present. What you can do is focus on getting neuropathy pain relief, learning how to manage the symptoms, and finding the underlying cause of the disorder. If the cause is identified and treated, usually the symptoms of neuropathy will go away. This is often the case with diabetes patients – once the blood sugar level is under control the symptoms will in many cases will disappear.
Depending on the type of polyneuropathy you are experiencing and the severity of the symptoms there are several options for neuropathy treatment that your medical practitioner may recommend.
- Pain Medication: There are several different over-the-counter medications that may be very effective when the symptoms are mild. However, when the symptoms are more severe, you may need to use stronger prescription medications to manage your discomfort. Many are reluctant to use these stronger drugs because of the possibility of developing a dependence on them. There are also the risks associated with a battery of dangerous side effects to consider. Most doctors will only prescribe these types of drugs when other treatment options fail.
- Corticosteroids: Another option many find to be effective is the use of corticosteroids. These are anti-inflammatory drugs that have been effective in relieving nerve irritation and inflammation caused by polyneuropathy. Patients can get them in oral form or can even have them injected right into the affected site for more immediate relief. They not only can bring pain relief but they can also keep the flare-ups from recurring for an extended period of time.
- Anti-Seizure Medications: Anti-seizure drugs were originally used for the treatment of epilepsy but they have also proven to be successful as treatment for neuropathy as well. These drugs can be quite powerful so caution is needed before taking them. They can cause drowsiness and dizziness so patients must keep that in mind if they use them. Driving, working, or even being in certain areas while on these drugs can present a whole battery of additional problems or risks as a result.
- TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation): This is a drug-free treatment that sends small electrical impulses along the affected nerve paths by placing electrodes directly on the skin where the symptoms are present. It is often prescribed for patients who are suffering from acute nerve pain and is used in conjunction with other treatments for best results.
- Antidepressants: Antidepressants can be very helpful in bringing relief from the pain because they interrupt the chemical processes in the brain that send pain signals to the nerves.
- Alternative Treatments: There are also a number of alternative treatments that have proven to work well in the treatment of polyneuropathy. Many doctors recommend that along with natural supplements, those who remain active with regular exercise can see a reduction in the pain. And those who are familiar with their body's pressure points can make a conscious effort to avoid putting too much pressure on the nerves in sensitive areas to prevent flare-ups.
- Dietary Supplements: Finally, for those who would rather avoid the risks often associated with using drugs or the hassles of carrying around a portable TENS unit, there are dietary supplements that can be quite useful. For example, Nerve Renew, a new support formula for the treatment of this condition is a combination of herbs, vitamins, and natural antioxidants specifically designed to treat the symptoms of neuropathy. Many may prefer this type of treatment as all the ingredients used are natural and can be used to protect the nerves from further damage, decrease the amount of irritability and stress that is related to the symptoms of polyneuropathy. And for those with more extreme symptoms, it can reduce the extent of the burning sensation in the hands and feet when neuropathy flares up.
There are many different treatment options for those who may be suffering from polyneuropathy. Some have been used for thousands of years while others may be new. But, once you understand your condition and how to manage its symptoms, you'll be able to find a treatment that is most effective for you.