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10 Questions Every Neuropathy Patient Should Ask Their Doctor

Doctor explaining diagnosis to her female patientIf you’re meeting with your doctor or neurologist for the first time to discuss your neuropathy-like symptoms – such as pain, numbness or tingling in the hands or feet – your mind is likely swirling with questions, concerns, what-ifs and more. Taking the time beforehand to write down a list of questions or concerns you wish to discuss can have a significant impact not only on your peace of mind – but also on your chances of receiving the best advice and care possible for your own unique circumstances.

Asking the right questions can help both you and your doctor better understand your symptoms as well as foster an environment where you can get the answers you need to make informed decisions regarding your treatment. If you’re not sure where to start or what questions to ask, try using these 10 questions. They can help get the conversation going and may spark additional questions or concerns…

1. What are the potential causes of my peripheral neuropathy?

The most common cause of peripheral neuropathy is diabetes – but it is far from the only cause. Other possible causes of nerve pain can include vitamin deficiencies, chemotherapy, trauma, surgery, etc. As treatments may vary depending on the cause of your nerve damage, determining the cause is critical to finding the right treatment plan.

Want to learn more about potential causes of neuropathy? Check out these 7 Potential Causes of Your Neuropathy >

2. What are the most common symptoms of neuropathy? Do my symptoms fit the bill?

Be prepared to describe all of your symptoms – even if you’re not sure that they’re related to neuropathy. Openness and communication is key to determining whether your symptoms fit the bill for neuropathy and identifying their potential cause.

3. What can I take for the pain?

For many, the pain from nerve damage can be intense – even debilitating. Ask your doctor what medications are available for the pain. Medications can range from over-the-counter pain relievers to prescription painkillers. Various other prescription medications are also used to treat neuropathy pain, including both anti-seizure and anti-depressant medications.

Though they may not completely eliminate the pain, they can take the edge off and help calm overactive nerves. Restoring the calm can help get you your life back and allow you to focus on something other than the pain.

Want to know more about common treatments for Neuropathy Pain? Check out these 7 Common Treatments for Nerve Pain >

4. What negative side effects should I worry about with prescription medications?

Many prescription medications have a long list of adverse side effects and those used to treat nerve pain are no exception. For example, anti-seizure medications – a popular treatment for neuropathy – have a long list of side effects including drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, blurred vision, confusion and more.

Knowing the potential risks up front can help you make an informed decision about which medications to try and which to avoid. Your doctor can help explain any potential risks and help you weigh them against potential benefits.

5. What alternative treatments or therapies are there for the pain?

Prescription medications aren’t the only option available for treating neuropathic pain. There are various other treatments and therapies that can serve as complementary treatments – or, if you want to avoid prescriptions altogether, can serve as primary treatments.

Alternative treatments may include supplements, acupuncture, TENs therapy, nerve blocks, physical therapy and more. More often than not, your doctor will recommend a multi-pronged approach to repairing nerve damage and easing nerve pain. This may include medications as well as some of the options mentioned above. Asking your doctor about all possible options available to you is a great way to show your interest in trying anything – conventional or not.

6. Should I be tested for a vitamin deficiency?

One of the potential causes of peripheral neuropathy is a deficiency of vitamin B12. This important vitamin helps build and maintain a protective coating around the nerves known as the myelin sheath. Additionally, vitamin B12 helps boost and repair damaged nerves. A deficiency in this important vitamin has been linked to nerve damage and peripheral neuropathy.

If there are no obvious causes of your symptoms (i.e. diabetes, chemotherapy, recent surgeries, etc) ask your doctor about whether or not he/she believes a vitamin deficiency could be contributing to the problem. If they deem it necessary, they can run a simple test to determine whether a deficiency of vitamin B12 is playing a role in your peripheral neuropathy or not.

7. What can I do about the tingling, numbness or burning?

For most suffering from neuropathy, the nerve damage first manifests itself in the feet – often in the form of burning, tingling or numbness. As mentioned previously, both prescription and over-the-counter medications can help counteract some of these symptoms. In addition to oral pain relievers, there are topical creams formulated to help bring relief from the symptoms of neuropathy.

Neuropathy creams contain capsaicin, a component found in chili peppers. The capsaicin acts as an analgesic to help relieve pain and irritation. It is commonly used to bring temporary relief to those suffering from peripheral neuropathy.

8. What, if any, lifestyle changes should I make?

There is an old Chinese proverb that states, “He who takes medicine and neglects to diet wastes the skill of his doctors.” We would take it a step further and say that he who neglects making certain lifestyle changes (including, but not limited to diet) wastes the skills of his doctors.

For those afflicted with nerve pain, making lifestyle changes can have a positive impact on their symptoms and improve their chances of finding relief. These lifestyle changes might include quitting smoking, limiting or eliminating alcohol consumption, changing your diet or making low impact exercises part of their daily routine. The changes will largely depend on your lifestyle, as well as the cause of your neuropathy. Ask your doctor what changes you need to make and then create a plan to do it.

9. Are there any local support groups or networks for people with Neuropathy?

There may be a neuropathy support group in your area. These groups can be a valuable resource and help you learn from others who have walked in your shoes. You can gain first hand insight from others on different treatments, lifestyle changes and anything else related to living with neuropathy. Having the ability to talk to others experiencing the same difficulties as you are lets you know you’re not alone and can provide a valuable boost to your morale. To find a support group near you, search here.

If there aren’t any support groups in your local area, connect with a support group online. You can reap the same benefits from online support groups as local groups. Here are a few online support groups to get you going:

The Neuropathy Association

Neuropathy Support Network

 10. Is there anything I need to be more cautious about?

Since neuropathy often causes numbness, it is important that you take extra care of the afflicted areas. Avoid exposure to extreme cold or heat and be sure to check the area daily for any signs of concern.

If your symptoms are manifest in the feet, it is especially important that you check your feet daily for damage. Check for blisters or infections or other signs of problems. Wash your feet daily with warm water and be sure to dry them thoroughly. Make sure your shoes and socks fit comfortably and aren’t causing any rubbing or irritation on the feet – as this may go unnoticed with numbness.

Ask your doctor what other special precautions you should take. The last thing you want is to cause more problems when some simple preventative measures can protect you from them.

Remember – when you’re visiting your doctor or neurologist about your peripheral neuropathy – it should be a conversation. While they are experts and know what to do – going to your appointment prepared with your own questions can foster productive conversations that can help them gain greater insight into your problems and help you get the answers to the questions or concerns you have.

Use these ten questions as a starting point and add other questions to this list. Between each appointment, keep a running list of questions or concerns. Before you know it, you’ll possess a wealth of knowledge and information that will help you make informed decisions when coping with your neuropathy.

3 Best Antioxidants for Easing Nerve Pain

nervesEveryday there are hundreds – perhaps thousands – of battles going on within your body. Your nerve cells face threats from germs, infections, viruses, nutritional deficiencies and more. One of the less obvious threats to your cells are free radicals. Free radicals are harmful compounds that scour the body – attacking and destroying cells. If left unhindered, free radicals can cause damage that can eventually result in chronic illness and other negative health outcomes.

To protect your cells from damage or destruction by free radicals – your body relies on antioxidants. Antioxidants seek out free radicals and neutralize the threat they present to your body. There are literally hundreds of antioxidants. Your body naturally produces some antioxidants while others come from food or supplements. No matter the source – they play an important role in defending your cells, including your nerve cells, from the harmful effects of free radicals.

Among the hundreds of antioxidants that protect your nerve cells from damage, there are three in particular that stand out as being especially effective for those with nerve pain. Lets take a look:

Alpha Lipoic Acid

Alpha lipoic acid is often referred to as a “super antioxidant”, with good reason. It has the special ability to regenerate both itself and other antioxidants – which helps bring the fight to free radicals. It also helps increase oxygen and blood flow to the nerves and is effective at relieving some of the symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy.

Alpha lipoic acid can be found in foods like broccoli and spinach, but a more bio-available form of it is available in supplements. Patients suffering from diabetic neuropathy have reported significant reductions in pain, burning and numbness in their arms and legs – typically after about 3-5 weeks of treatment with alpha lipoic acid supplements.

CoQ10 (CoEnzyme Q10)

CoQ10 is an antioxidant naturally produced by your body. However, as you age the production levels decrease, sometimes resulting in a deficiency of this important antioxidant. As it relates to your nerves, CoQ10 plays a role in correction mitochondrial dysfunction, a condition that can lead to a decline in nerve health and cause nerve related problems or pain.

In addition to its nerve protecting qualities, CoQ10 is an important antioxidant for energy and can be found in every cell in your body. Its primary function is to help the body convert food into energy by producing ATP, a molecule that serves as the primary fuel source for cells and cellular functions.

Though your body will likely produce enough C0Q10 on its own, as you age and your production levels decline you may consider taking a daily CoQ10 supplement – which you can find at your local pharmacy in the vitamins and supplements isle.

Hydroxytyrosol

Hydroxytrosol is yet another superstar antioxidant. What makes this antioxidant so great is its incredible ability to absord and neutralize free radicals. Research shows that it is 15 times more powerful than Green Tea and 3 times more powerful than CoQ10 at neutralizing free radicals!

Like CoQ10, hydroxytrosl helps protect cells and promote healthy mitochondrial function – thereby protecting the health of your nerves. In a 2012 study on its effects on the progression of diabetic neuropathy, Italian researchers observed that it slowed its progression and possessed therapeutic qualities for the treatment of its symptoms.

In addition to its nerve boosting qualities, hydroxytrosol is also known for its anti-inflammatory properties. It can help reduce painful inflammation and ease irritating swelling and redness.

This powerful antioxidant is found in olive trees and can be extracted from the trees fruit and leaves. For those looking to get more of it, a Mediterranean-style diet will be rich in this antioxidant.

Getting more of these and other antioxidants, whether it is through diet or supplements, will help give your body the upper hand in fighting harmful free radicals that seek to wreak havoc on your cells. As noted above, consistent treatment can even result in a significant reduction in nerve related pain and provide much needed relief.

 

 

7 Common Treatments for Nerve Pain

MedicineNavigating one’s way through the various treatments and therapies available for peripheral neuropathy can be an overwhelming process. Finding the right treatment for your own peripheral neuropathy will often depend on the underlying cause of your neuropathy and the progression of your symptoms. Once you’ve discussed your symptoms with your doctor and have undergone the necessary lab tests, your doctor will discuss the recommended treatment options with you.

Knowing the different options beforehand can help you to make an informed decision and – with the help of your doctor – choose the best option for you. To help you understand your options, lets take a look at a few of the most common treatments and therapies used to treat peripheral neuropathy.

Medications

There are a number of medications – both prescription and over-the-counter – that can help alleviate some of the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy. These include pain relievers, antidepressants, anti-seizure medications and capsaicin. Pain relievers generally help relieve pain by reducing inflammation caused by nerve damage. Anti-seizure medications and some antidepressants alter chemical processes in the brain that are related to pain. Additionally, they help calm overactive nerves – helping to reduce pain inducing nerve signals from being transmitted.

Capsaicin is a chemical harvested from hot peppers and used in topical creams. It can help create a numbing effect for those suffering from nerve pain. As with most medications, side effects of the medications used for neuropathy can vary. It is important to pay attention to any adverse side effects and discuss them with your doctor.

Therapeutic Nerve Block

If prescription medications aren’t providing relief, another option is a therapeutic nerve block. A nerve block is an injection of an anesthetic into the affected area. The anesthetic can help disrupt or block pain signals to the brain – providing temporary relief to those suffering from intense nerve pain.

TENS Therapy (Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation)

TENS is a type of therapy that – after receiving initial training from a doctor or therapist – can be done at home. It involves placing adhesive electrodes – attached to a small battery pack – onto the area in pain. Using the low voltage setting recommended to you by your doctor or therapist, you turn the device on to transmit electrical currents to the skin.

These electrical currents are believed to help ease pain related to peripheral neuropathy by stimulating the affected nerves and thereby sending signals to the brain to help block the usual pain signals. Additionally, it is believed that the stimulation helps promote the release painkilling endorphins in the body.

Supplements

Vitamin and herbal supplements can help provide lasting relief and supply the body with important nerve boosting nutrients. A few common supplements for nerve pain include alpha-lipoic acid, acetyl-L-carnitine, fish oil, vitamin B12 (methylcobalamine), oat straw extract and skullcap extract.

Blood Sugar Management & Diet

If your neuropathy was caused as a result of diabetes, the most effective treatment for stopping nerve damage is maintaining proper blood sugar levels. In many cases, you can even reverse the effects of diabetic neuropathy through disciplined diet and nutrition.

Physical Therapy

The effects of neuropathy can go beyond just pain and numbness. Since peripheral neuropathy most commonly affects the feet and hands – we often reduce our physical use of those extremities. Over time, this can result in muscle deterioration and weakness as well as poor circulation – which can further aggravate nerve pain.

Physical therapy can help the body to restore and maintain healthy muscles and promote better circulation. Popular therapies for neuropathy include massage, water aerobics, yoga and other low impact exercises.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture, like physical therapy, can be a great complementary treatment. Acupuncture typically involves the insertion of thin, sterile needles into various acupuncture points across the body. For some, these alternative therapy helps reduce the symptoms of neuropathic pain.

Besides the treatments mentioned above, your doctor might recommend additional lifestyle changes such as to quit smoking or limit alcohol consumption – as these and other lifestyle habits can have a damaging effect on the nerves. For most, the results from the various treatments will vary. While some may see results immediately, for others the effects may take time. It is important to maintain hope and be as consistent as possible.

3 Surprising Nerve-Boosting Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Woman with Omega 3 fish oil capsuleWe get a lot of questions about what kinds of vitamins and minerals are best for maintaining healthy nerves or helping damaged nerves to recover. Of course, there are a number of different nutrients that are essential for nerve health. Among them are vitamin B12, vitamin D, lipoic acid and more. These help the body carry out important nerve related functions.

Another, perhaps lesser-known nutrient with pain-fighting and nerve-boosting abilities is Omega-3. Researchers have connected Omega-3 fatty acids with a number of nerve related benefits. Lets take a look at the three most promising benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids as they relate to the nerves.

Reduces Inflammation

Damaged nerves can cause pain and inflammation throughout the body. Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation and ease pain levels in affected areas. In a study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, 250 patients experiencing pain were given 1,200 mg/day of Omega-3 fatty acids in a fish oil supplement. After just one month, 60% of respondents reported that their pain levels had decreased and nearly 60% were able to stop taking their prescription anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) for pain.

Protects Nerves

Omega-3 fatty acids are also important for helping protect the nerves. Researchers from Queen Mary, University of London discovered that Omega-3 fatty acids helped protect nerves from injury. In a study conducted on isolated mouse nerve cells, researchers simulated nerve damage commonly caused by accident or injury by stretching the cells or starving them of oxygen. Researchers discovered that both types of damage resulted in a significant number of nerve cell deaths, but that those cells enriched with omega-3 fatty acids the cells saw superior levels of protection and fewer instances of death.

Promotes Faster Recovery of Damaged Nerves

One of the biggest benefits for those suffering from nerve damage is that Omega-3 fatty acids promote the speedy recovery of damaged nerves. In the same study from the University of London mentioned above, researchers found that a high level of omega-3 fatty acids helped mice to recover from sciatic nerve injury more quickly and more fully, and that their muscles were less likely to waste following nerve damage.

In a separate study by Dr. Gordon Ko, Omega-3 fatty acids were studied for their benefits in restoring the health of the myelin sheath (a protective coating around the nerves) and reducing neuropathic pain in patients suffering from chronic pain. The patients were given between 2,400-7,200 mg/day of Omega-3 fatty acids. All patients in the study reported clinically significant pain reduction and improved function even up to 19 months after the initiation of the study. Dr. Ko concluded that the use of Omega-3 fatty acids may be beneficial in the treatment of neuropathic pain.

Since the body does not produce Omega-3 fatty acids, they have to be consumed through dietary sources or supplements. A few rich food sources of Omega-3 fatty acids are salmon, sardines, walnuts, flaxseeds and soybeans. If food sources aren’t enough, you may also want to take a dietary supplement of fish oil or sunflower oil – both of which are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.

What daily supplements do you take to boost the health of your nerves? Share your comments with us on our Facebook Page!

New Study Reveals Anti-seizure Meds May be Ineffective for Neuropathy Pain

prescription pillsA popular form of treatment for nerve related pain has come under scrutiny recently. Among the various medications used to treat neuropathic pain is the use of anti-seizure medications such as Gabapentin and Lyrica. However, new research casts some doubt on the effectiveness of some anti-seizure medications in treating nerve pain.

Originally developed to prevent epileptic seizures, anti-seizure medications eventually found their way into the world of pain management in the 1960’s. Little is understood about their exact mechanisms for relieving pain, but the medications are widely believed to ease nerve related pain by calming overactive nerves. While some are thought to provide relief, a recent study suggests that others lack evidence to support their effectiveness.

In an article published in the Cochrane Library in January of 2015, the authors reviewed a clinical study conducted to measure the effectiveness of the anti-seizure medication zonisamide in treating neuropathic pain. In the study, 25 participants were broken into two groups. One group was given anti-seizure medication while the other was given a placebo.

The authors note that of the 13 participants being given the anti-seizure medication zonisamide, 8 withdrew early from the 12-week treatment period because of adverse side effects. Of the placebo group, only one withdrew early. The authors also indicate that the “study reporting in this particular clinical study may have led to major over-estimation of any treatment effects” because most participants withdrew early.

The final conclusion was that “ there was too little information, which was of inadequate quality, to give any guidance as to whether zonisamide works as a pain medicine in any neuropathic pain condition.” More studies need to be done on zonisamide and similar medications to determine their effectiveness in relieving nerve related pain.

Have you taken anti-seizure medication for your nerve pain? What effect, if any, did it have on your symptoms? Share your experience with us on our Facebook Page.

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The statements made on our websites have not been evaluated by the FDA (U.S. Food & Drug Administration). Our products are not intended to diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Neuropathy Treatment Group is not affiliated with any of the studies mentioned on the website. The testimonials on this website are individual cases and do not guarantee that you will get the same results.