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They’re designed to help you – but sometimes the medications you take for various health conditions can have lasting adverse effects on your health – and your nerves. From blood pressure medications to drugs used to fight cancer and everything in-between, there are a number of prescription medications that can cause neuropathy.
Do you know what they are?
If not, pay attention. Millions of unassuming patients develop neuropathy as a result of their prescription drug medications. While in some cases the drugs may be a necessity, in many cases there will be alternative drugs that can help without hurting your nerves.
Lets take a look at the common prescription medications known to cause neuropathy. To help make it easier for you to find ones you may be taking, we’ve categorized them by the type of ailment or condition they’re typically prescribed for.
Autoimmune disease medications:
Chemotherapy is another common cause of neuropathy. In fact, according to the Neuropathy Association, approximately one-third of cancer survivors will suffer from cancer-related neuropathy.
- Lescol XL
- Pravigard Pac
Statins, a class of drug prescribed to help lower cholesterol, have been linked to neuropathy. Statins are a billion dollar industry – with over $19 billion in sales in 2010. While they may help lower cholesterol, they can also permanently damage nerve – especially after long-term use. If taken for more than two years, statins are highly likely to damage the nerves and result in peripheral neuropathy.
Approximately 70% of diabetes patients will develop peripheral neuropathy. While diabetes itself is a major cause of neuropathy, one of the common drugs used to treat it can also have an adverse effect on your nerves. Metformin, a drug commonly used as an initial treatment for type 2 diabetes, has been linked to neuropathy.
According to a 2010 study on the drug, approximately 30% of long-term metformin users developed a vitamin B12 deficiency. If left unaddressed, vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to nerve damage – resulting in full-blown neuropathy. The sooner users recognize the neuropathy symptoms and address the cause, the better the chances of stopping the progression of their neuropathy.
Heart or blood pressure medications:
- Ethacrynic Acid
- Hydrochlorothiazide (HCT)
- Hydrodiuril, Lisinopril
- Didanosine (Videx)
- Stavudine (Zerit)
- Zalcitabine (Hivid)
- Isoniazid (INH), used against tuberculosis
- Metronidazole (Flagyl)
- Thalidomide (used to fight leprosy)
- Anticonvuslants (Phenytoin)
- Anti-alcohol drugs (Disulfiram)
When taking any medication – it is important to watch for any adverse side effects and immediately notify your doctor of them. While the medications listed above won’t cause (or worsen) neuropathy in every case – it is important to be aware of the risks and closely monitor any symptoms like numbness, tingling or shooting pains that might develop while using them.
Did a medication contribute to the development of your neuropathy? If so, what medication was it and how long did it take you to notice? Share your answers by commenting below or joining the conversation with over 50k neuropathy sufferers like yourself on the Neuropathy Treatment Group Facebook Page.
You’ve probably seen their commercials on T.V or in magazines promoting relief from nerve pain. Perhaps you’ve tried taking them – or are even still taking them now. But despite giant marketing efforts and a 17x increase in usage over the last decade, some of the most common prescription drugs for neuropathy may be largely ineffective at reducing pain.
This is according to research conducted through the Therapeutics Initiative at the University of B.C. The Therapeutics Initiative (TI), established in 1994 by the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, aims to provide physicians and pharmacists with up-to-date, evidence-based, practical information on prescription drug therapies.
To reduce bias as much as possible the TI is an independent organization; their research isn’t funded, influenced or manipulated by any company or group to give favor or bias to a particular product or treatment.
According to their most recent research on prescription drug treatments for reducing nerve pain, some of the most common drugs used are largely ineffective – and in many cases result in adverse side effects. Lets take a look at a few of the questions you may have about prescription medications for nerve pain and the surprising answers this unbiased research gives us.
What drugs were studied?
The drugs mentioned in the study were:
Pregabalin (Common brands: Lyrica)
Gabapentin (Common brands: Neurontin, Gralise, Horizant)
Duloxetine (Common brands: Cymbalta)
Venlafaxine (Common brands: Effexor)
These drugs are often prescribed to patients with chronic pain – especially neuropathic pain – as an alternative to long-term opioid therapy. The study notes that doctors often prescribe these medications to patients in higher doses and for longer periods than supported by clinical evidence. As we’ll see later – this may do more harm than good.
How effective were these drugs in reducing nerve pain?
At the rate in which the use of these drugs has increased over the last decade – you would think they would have a very high success rate among those with nerve pain. However, the results of the TI study showed them to be largely ineffective.
In fact, they estimate only one in ten patients will experience a reduction in pain as a result of taking these medications. Further, they showed that in those cases where patients experienced relief – the relief was minimal. In fact, on a ten-point scale, gabapentin only reduces neuropathic pain by a single point.
What if I try higher dosage or longer treatment?
As mentioned earlier, many doctors will prescribe a higher dosage or longer treatment than evidence supports. In fact, evidence shows that the effectiveness of these drugs does NOT increase with higher dosage or longer treatment. In some cases – using a higher dosage or extending the treatment period can actually result in adverse side effects.
If the drugs are going to help, you will notice a difference within the first week. If you experience no improvement within the first week of use, you should seek a new approach.
What are the adverse effects and how common are they?
Earlier we mentioned that only about one in ten patients experienced a reduction in pain (albeit a very minimal reduction) while taking the drugs listed above. Conversely, 80% of patients taking these drugs reported at least one adverse side effect. These side effects included like somnolence, dizziness, loss of balance, nausea, dry mouth and constipation. If the drugs do provide relief, some of the side effects are manageable. However, if there is no relief within the first week – you’re better off discontinuing use and looking for new treatments.
So while the deep pockets of pharmaceutical companies flood our televisions with polished, convincing ads promising relief from nerve pain – the results of the third-party study by TI suggest the results may be more elusive than they appear. Of course, some may experience meaningful relief from various methods – so you should always consult your doctor and explore different options.
Which treatments – natural or prescription-based, have you tried? Which ones have had the most significant impact on your pain? Share you answers with us in the comments below or like us on Facebook and join the conversation.
We all lead busy lives – whether it’s rushing to your next doctor’s appointment or sorting through bills, you’ve likely had a lot on your plate. Unfortunately, in the hustle and bustle of life we sometimes miss important information that could benefit us greatly.
Chances are you may have missed a few of our valuable blog posts over the past year. With that in mind, we decided to compile a list of 10 of our most important neuropathy articles from the past year. These are among our most popular articles, have been viewed, liked or commented on by tens of thousands of neuropathy sufferers like you.
In case you missed them, here they are…
10 Little Known Ways to Relieve Nerve Pain (without prescriptions)
One of the most common questions we hear from people dealing with nerve pain is whether or not there are any effective non-prescription approaches to treating the symptoms of neuropathy. Some are looking for a natural approach because of negative experiences or adverse side effects from their prescription medications. Others are looking for a more lasting approach that helps address the underlying causes of their pain rather than merely provide temporary relief.
We’ve researched some of the most commonly used non-prescription approaches to managing nerve pain. If you’re looking for new options to help you manage the symptoms of your neuropathy, try starting with one of these popular and effective approaches.
4 Habits You Need to Stop Now if You Have Nerve Pain
Could something you do everyday be aggravating your nerve pain? Believe it or not – we all have certain habits or routines that may actually be making our neuropathy worse. It’s important to know what these potentially harmful habits are so you can make the necessary changes and potentially bring some level of relief to your symptoms. Read this post to find out what these four potentially harmful habits are!
What No One Tells You About Neuropathy & Muscle Control
Have you noticed any muscle related problems since you were diagnosed with neuropathy? Maybe you find it more difficult to walk? Or possibly you have problems with fine motor functions like picking things up or gripping things like doorknobs?
When nerve damage affects the motor nerves, motor functions such as those mentioned above can be affected. This article covers various symptoms you may experience if your neuropathy has affected your motor nerves.
8 Signs You Might Have Neuropathy
Do you know the common signs to look out for? Your symptoms will vary depending on the type of nerve affected. Other factors such as your age, health as well as the cause of your neuropathy can influence your symptoms. Read this popular blog post to find out which of your symptoms might be related to your neuropathy.
10 Questions Every Neuropathy Patient Should Ask Their Doctor
Is neuropathy new to you and you’re not sure what to ask? Or maybe you’ve dealt with it for some time but struggle to find the right questions to ask to get the most out of your appointments. Asking the right questions is critical to getting the most out of your visits and getting the right treatments the first time around.
This article will guide you through 10 simple questions you should ask your doctor at your next visit. You may even want to copy and print each question to bring with you!
New Study Reveals Anti-Seizure Meds May Be Ineffective for Neuropathy Pain
Among the popular treatments for neuropathic pain are anti-seizure medications like Lyrica and Gabapentin. However, a new study shows that these types of medications may be ineffective for nerve pain – and may in fact cause adverse side effects. You don’t want to miss this informative article if you’re taking anti-seizure medications for your nerve pain!
5 Most Important Tips for Managing Your Nerve Pain
Do you know the best approaches to managing nerve pain naturally? From supplements to changes in diet – there are a number of natural approaches you can take to boost the health of your nerves. This article covers five of the most important natural approaches you can take to manage pain and help your nerves recover.
Top 10 Herbs & Supplements for Nerve Pain
Expanding on the previous post (5 Most Important Tips for Managing Your Nerve Pain), this article reviews the most effective herbs and supplements to take for neuropathy. Natural herbs and supplements can be an effective complimentary treatment for neuropathy. Besides being effective, they are also popular because they don’t have many of the adverse side effects that prescription medications often do.
Find out which herbs or vitamin and nutritional supplements you should be taking and how each one can specifically address the symptoms of neuropathy!
12 Signs of Nerve Damage You Might Not Know About
We all know about the numbness, tingling or sharp pains caused by neuropathy – but did you know there are a number of other symptoms that could be related to nerve damage? From digestive problems to difficulty with balance, you may be suffering from symptoms that you didn’t realize were connected to nerve damage.
Read this article to see if you’re suffering from any of these 12 symptoms of nerve damage that you may not have realized were caused by your neuropathy.
10 Resources Every Neuropathy Sufferer Should Bookmark
Anyone who has tried to traverse the vast amount of websites and information about neuropathy online knows that the terrain can be difficult. There is a lot of outdated information and misleading websites out there. Knowing where to find reliable, up to date information about neuropathy can be a huge asset to anyone suffering from the condition. We’ve pulled together a list of 10 reliable websites and organizations you should bookmark if you want the best information about neuropathy.
We hope you’ve found these articles helpful as you’ve sought new ways to cope with your neuropathy. We have lots of great articles planned for the coming year, so be sure to check back often here or on our Facebook Page for new blog posts!
Of all the medicines and remedies you’ve considered for your neuropathy treatment – I’ll bet food wasn’t high on the list (if it was even on the list at all). Believe it or not though – emerging research is showing that the types of foods we consume can have a powerful effect on our nerves – and may even help heal or repair damaged nerves.
Foods can have a positive or negative effect on your neuropathy. Some foods can actually weaken or damage the nerves further – leading to exacerbated symptoms. Knowing what these foods are and avoiding them at all costs can go a long way in preventing the spread or worsening of your nerve pain, numbness or tingling.
Other foods can strengthen your nerves – helping to guard against further damage and boosting the health of your peripheral nervous system. In some cases, the foods you eat may even help repair damaged nerves, resulting in relief from the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy. These nerve-boosting foods are the topic of today’s blog post.
Lets take a look at 10 foods you should include in your diet to both boost nerve health and promote the healing of damaged nerves:
Vitamin B12 rich foods
Of all the vitamins and nutrients for nerve health – B12 is one of the most important. Vitamin B12 helps build, sustain and repair the layer of protective fat around the nerves. This protective coating, known as the Myelin Sheath, is an essential defense against harmful substances that could damage or destroy nerves. Without enough vitamin B12, the myelin sheath weakens, leaving your nerves more vulnerable to damage. In fact, a deficiency of vitamin B12 is one of the leading causes of neuropathy.
You may be thinking “well, my nerves have already been damaged – so what use is it now?”. In some studies, ultra high doses of vitamin B12 have been shown to actually rebuild and repair damaged nerves. Also, even if you already have neuropathy, vitamin B12 can help protect your undamaged nerves and help slow or prevent the spread of your symptoms to other areas.
Top food sources of Vitamin B12:
- Fortified cereals
One of the primary sources of fuel for your nervous and muscular systems is vitamin B1. This critical vitamin has two important roles to help fuel your nervous system. First, it helps convert carbohydrates into energy so the nervous system can use it. Second, it helps in the creation of ATP – which is a molecule used by every single cell in the body to transfer chemical energy between cells for metabolism.
The biggest problem with vitamin B1 is that it has difficulty absorbing into our systems – so when we consume it through food sources only a small fraction makes it in. For that reason, we typically suggest taking a daily vitamin B1 supplement in addition to eating B1-rich foods.
Top food sources of Vitamin B1:
- Sunflower Seeds
- Navy Beans
- Black Beans
- Green Peas
Vitamin B6 – but not too much!
Often when we recommend vitamin B6 we get responses that it can actually hurt your nerves and cause neuropathy. This is true – but only if you get too much of it. According to the National Academies Institute of Medicine, the tolerable upper intake levels (UL) for adults (both men and women) is 100 milligrams. Anything above 100 milligrams a day could potentially result in harmful side effects – including sensory neuropathy. They also report that no cases of vitamin B6 excess have been reported from getting too much B6 from food sources. Typically, excessive use of B6 supplements is the culprit.
So, why do we recommend eating foods with vitamin B6? It’s simple. The key reason is that your body needs B6 in order to properly absorb vitamin B12 into your system. Remember vitamin B12 from earlier? It’s one of the most important vitamins for nerve health – so without B6, the body cannot absorb it.
A few more key functions of B6 is that it helps produce neurotransmitters for carrying signals between nerve cells, helps maintain normal blood sugar levels and contributes to energy metabolism to help keep your various systems alive and well.
Top food sources of Vitamin B6:
- Fortified cereals
Just as vitamin B6 plays is needed for the body to be able to use B12 – vitamin B2 is needed to for the body to make use of B6! It’s as if each vitamin is a link in a chain – if a link is missing the chain becomes less effective. In this case, the last link in the chain – Vitamin B12 – is also the most important for your nerves. Without vitamin B2 and B6, your body’s ability to properly absorb and make use of these vitamins for the benefit of your nerves becomes significantly handicapped.
Top food sources of Vitamin B2:
- Beet Greens
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Don’t let the name fool you – Omega-3 fatty acids won’t cause weight gain. Instead, they can help provide a wealth of health benefits – many of which are highly beneficial to those of us with nerve pain.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of Omega-3 fatty acids is that they can promote faster recovery of damaged nerves. Various important studies have shown that Omega-3 helps promote quicker recovery from sciatic nerve pain as well as reducing pain in neuropathy patients by repairing the myelin sheath (the protective coating around your nerves). In one study of chronic pain patients – those who were given 2,400-7,200 mg/day of Omega-3 fatty acids reported a significant reduction in neuropathic pain, even as long as 19 months after the study!
Top food sources of Omega-3 fatty acids:
- Flax seeds
Among the foods that can help relieve the pain associated with nerve damage, Ginger ranks right up there among the best. It’s healing powers can be attributed to its compounds known as gingerols. Gingerols are anti-inflammatory compounds that can are particularly effective in reducing pain levels and increasing mobility among those with chronic pain.
Potassium & Magnesium
Potassium and magnesium are both essential for proper nerve function. Potassium helps generate energy so that the nerves can transmit messages. The way it does this is called the sodium-potassium pump. Essentially, there is more potassium inside your cells and more sodium outside. When the gate that allows one or the other to leave or enter the cell opens – potassium shoots out and sodium floods in. This “pump” generates the energy for your nerves to transmit messages.
Magnesium helps relax the nervous system – calming overactive nerves and relaxing your muscles. This calming effect on the nerves and muscles helps reduce pain and improve mobility. Low levels of potassium and magnesium may result in fatigue, cramping and weakness – among other symptoms.
Top food sources of potassium & magnesium:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Beans and peas
- Fresh fruits
Did you know that right now in your body there are molecules known as free radicals that are attacking your nerves? They’re trying to break down the protective coating around your nerves (the myelin sheath) and destroy the nerve cells. Scary, right?
These free radicals actually have a functional role in helping the body digest food and turn it into energy – but when too many are produced they become a hazard to your body and health. That’s where antioxidants come in. Antioxidants seek out and neutralize excess free radicals in the body – thereby protecting your nerves and various other cellular systems from damage or destruction. Antioxidants like acetyl-l-carnitine and coenzyme Q10 are particularly effective at helping fight nerve damage and relieve neuropathic pain.
Top food sources of antioxidants:
- Dark green vegetables
Didn’t think you’d see water on the list, did you? While water may not posses any miraculous healing powers to cure neuropathy, it can help prevent pain from worsening due to inflammation. A lack of water can lead to muscle spasms and blood thickening – which can cause inflammation and disturb areas that are already more susceptible to pain. Staying adequately hydrated helps your body’s various organisms and systems perform their roles more effectively and can create a better sense of well-being.
So there you have – those are 10 things you can incorporate into your diet today to help relieve some of the symptoms of your neuropathy and give your nerves their best chance at fighting back and healing. What foods has your doctor recommended as part of a holistic approach to fighting neuropathy? Share you answers with us below or leave a comment on our Facebook page! We’d love to hear from you.
If you suffer from peripheral neuropathy, the first symptoms you probably felt and associated with the condition were likely pain, tingling or numbness in the hands or feet. The peripheral nerves stretch from the brain and spinal chord out to our furthermost extremities – the hands and feet. These extremities are usually most vulnerable to nerve damage and are often the first to feel the effects of neuropathy.
With that said, it’s important to know that pain, tingling or numbness aren’t the only symptoms of nerve damage. In fact, there are a number of other symptoms you may not even realize are connected to your neuropathy. Within the peripheral nervous system there are three types of nerves, each of which can be affected by peripheral neuropathy. They are the sensory nerves, motor nerves and autonomic nerves. Each type of nerve has a different set up function which nerve damage can affect.
Sensory nerves, as their name implies, transmit sensations from the skin back to the brain. These sensations might include pain, temperature, touch and more. Motor nerves help control the muscles used during motor functions such as walking, using your hands to grip something and more. Finally, autonomic nerves control involuntary functions like heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, sweat glands and more.
Damage to one or more of these nerves can result in neuropathy. When only one nerve is affected it is referred to as mononeuropathy. When two or more nerves are affected in multiple different spots it is called multiple mononeuropathy. Finally, when the damage affects multiple nerves (often in same spot on both sides of the body) it is known as polyneuropathy.
The symptoms of your peripheral neuropathy will largely depend on the type of nerve or nerves affected. Lets take a look at the different symptoms that are commonly reported when neuropathy affects one or more of the different types of nerves:
Pins and needles pain
As we already covered, perhaps the most well-known (and common) symptom associated with peripheral neuropathy is sharp, stabbing or burning pain – usually in the hands or feet. This is a result of damage to the sensory nerves. When the nerves are damaged, the transmission of sensory signals between the brain and the skin go haywire. The result can be moderate to severe pain in the affected areas.
Extreme sensitivity to touch
Areas where the sensory nerves have been damaged may be extremely sensitive to touch. For some, even the smallest brush of a bed sheet at night can result in severe pain. Dressing appropriately to protect sensitive areas is key to reducing the risk of more pain.
Numbness & tingling
Numbness and tingling are yet another potential manifestation of damaged sensory nerves. Again, the first areas usually affected are the hands or feet. What may start as a tingling sensation in the hands or feet can eventually result in numbness, which, if not treated, could spread to other areas of the body.
For those experiencing numbness in the hands or feet, daily inspections of the numb areas are important – especially for your feet. Checking for sores, blisters and other problems can help prevent further damage and infection.
Loss of balance
In a recent study on the relationship between neuropathy and balance, researchers discovered that there is a greater separation between the body’s center of mass and the center of pressure during movement in those with neuropathy. In simple terms, the greater the separation, the more likely one is to have balance problems. Researchers remarked, “For the first time, we have shown that balance is markedly impaired in patients with diabetic peripheral neuropathy during the gait activities of level ground walking, stair ascent and stair descent.”
Muscle weakness & loss of muscle control
Damage to the motor nerves affects the muscles in two ways. First, it disrupts the signals between the brain and the muscle group that the damaged nerve was in charge of relaying information to. This can result in problems like difficulty walking or difficulty with fine motor skills – such as picking up a pencil, gripping a doorknob, etc. Secondly, as the affected muscle group is used less, the muscles can weaken over time – making it even more difficult to perform certain motor functions.
Cramps or twitching
Since the motor nerves are interlaced with the muscles, damage to them can result in muscles cramps or twitching. These cramps and twitching can also pull on the nerves, potentially causing further damage. The cramps or twitching can vary in severity from small and slightly bothersome to intense and extremely painful.
Dizziness when standing
Among the various systems affected by autonomic neuropathy are the heart and lungs. This can affect blood pressure, especially when changing position from a seated to a standing position. Since the body is unable to respond quickly enough to this sudden change in blood pressure, it can sometimes result in dizziness and lightheadedness.
Abormal heart rate / shortness of breath during physical activity
Damage to the autonomic nerve can also cause an abnormal heart as well as difficulty breathing during physical activity. Any signs of abnormal heart rate or difficulty breathing should be immediately addressed with your doctor or medical provider.
Excessive sweating or lack of sweat
When the autonomic nerves are affected by neuropathy it can also result in perspiration problems. You may experience excessive sweating, particularly in the upper body and head. Some may also experience a lack of sweat, which can cause problems for body temperature – particularly during rigorous physical activity.
Among the more unpleasant symptoms of damage to the autonomic nerves are the problems related to the digestive system. These can include diarrhea, constipation, heartburn, bloating, feeling full after eating small portions of food, no appetite, vomiting of undigested food, nausea, difficulty swallowing and more.
Another frustrating and embarrassing problem linked to autonomic nerve damage is problems with the bladder. These include lack of bladder control, urinating too frequently or not enough, leakage, urinary tract infections and feelings of incomplete bladder emptiness.
Finally, autonomic neuropathy can inhibit the ability of your pupils to quickly adjust when going from dark to light. This can affect your ability to see well when going outside during the day. It may also be difficult to drive at night if your vision has been affected.
While we often associate just the symptoms of pain, tingling or numbness with neuropathy – the truth is that it can cause any number of other problems. These can range from problems with our motor functions like walking to difficulty with involuntary autonomic functions like breathing, heart rate and more. While in some cases the damage may not be reversible, it is possible to slow and even stop the damage from spreading. Talking to your doctor early and often can help prevent more symptoms from developing.
What are your most prevalent symptoms? Share your story with us on our Facebook Page!