Peripheral neuropathy is a condition that develops when nerves in the hands and feet are damaged, causing numbness, shooting pains, muscle cramps, balance problems, and muscle weakness. Neuropathy can be caused by several health conditions or physical damage, but the most common cause is diabetes.
Treatment options depend on the underlying cause. In most cases, peripheral neuropathy can’t be completely cured, but if the underlying medical condition can be controlled, symptoms often improved.
Certain causes of peripheral neuropathy can be treated fairly easily, while others are more challenging.
If the underlying cause is a vitamin deficiency, such as low levels of vitamin B12, this can easily be treated with vitamin supplements and improved diet. In this case, neuropathy can often be cured completely.
For nerve damage caused by sustained and excessive alcohol consumption, quitting alcohol can often improve symptoms.
Peripheral neuropathy caused by certain medications can often be reversed by simply switching to a different medication.
Diabetes, the number one cause of neuropathy, can be managed with diet and monitoring of blood sugar levels. While this will probably not cure the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy entirely, sufferers often find that the condition does not worsen and there is often improvement once their diabetes is controlled.
For cases where there has been physical damage to the nerves, surgical procedures can sometimes be helpful. Surgery can also be used to treat peripheral neuropathy caused by diabetes and other medical conditions.
Once the symptoms have been controlled as much as possible through treatment, it’s a case of waiting to see how much improvement will be made.
Sometimes available treatments have limited success, and in this case, while the actual peripheral neuropathy cannot be cured, the next step is to provide some relief from the condition if they experience a lot of pain.
Common painkillers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen are not usually effective for dealing with neuropathy pain. Certain antidepressants are often used to treat neuropathy pain, along with other medications.
Topical creams can also be helpful, including capsaicin cream, which is thought to stop the nerves sending pain signals to the brain. The local anesthetic, lidocaine, can also be used on small areas of skin.
A drug developed at the University of Virginia School of Medicine is currently being tested as a treatment option for neuropathy. The drug helps to reverse the effects of the condition by using enzymes to restore normal functioning to nerves.
Stem cell treatments are also being tested and show potential for treating pain with a long-term effect.
Alternative and Complementary Treatments
While there has been little research into treatments for neuropathy that do not fit into conventional medical practice, many sufferers have found relief by turning to alternative therapies.
Evening primrose oil can be taken as an anti-inflammatory, which may help to reduce feelings of numbness and tingling. Certain essential oils, including lavender and frankincense, also have anti-inflammatory properties.
Acupuncture can also be helpful as a form of pain relief, along with reflexology, which is particularly helpful for the legs and feet.
Supplements including benfotiamine (vitamin B1) and alpha-lipoic acid (an antioxidant) may also be useful to aid healthy nerve functioning and protect nerve circulation.
Sometimes prevention is the best cure, and if you are at risk of developing neuropathy you can take steps to prevent it.
Eating a healthy balanced diet and getting regular exercise can help to prevent many medical conditions and should definitely be the first step, along with avoiding alcohol and toxins.
While it may not always be possible to cure peripheral neuropathy, there are a number of measures you can take to improve the condition, and with current medical trials underway, there may well be a cure in the future.