Neuropathy or peripheral neuropathy is a condition in which the peripheral nerves sustain damage and cause pain, numbness and tingling among other symptoms. Peripheral neuropathy causes vary and include diabetes (most common), traumatic injuries and infections. Many doctors treat neuropathy by treating the diabetes first. Unfortunately, peripheral neuropathy doesn't have a cure, but several effective treatments help with managing the symptoms.
The Best Treatments for Neuropathy
Treatment for Pain and Burning
Pain, burning and tingling are perhaps the most prominent symptoms of neuropathy that require treatment. Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as NSAIDs, treat mild symptoms. Capsaicin cream and lidocaine patches are topical treatments that offer some soothing relief when applied directly to the affected areas.
For more severe pain, a doctor may prescribe medication. However, opioids come with a number of risks, including dependency, so most doctors wait to prescribe these painkillers until all other treatment options have failed. Additionally, doctors may prescribe antidepressants or anti-seizure medications. Antidepressants interfere with the processes in the brain and spinal cord that cause you to feel pain, thus reducing pain levels for many people. Likewise, anti-seizure medications can help treat nerve pain.
Treatment for Numbness and Loss of Feeling
It's common for people with neuropathy to lose feeling in their extremities, especially their feet. That's why it's common for people to develop sores, ulcers and other problems with their feet. In severe cases, serious injuries and infections can occur, leading to amputation. If sores develop on the feet, it's important to keep them clean and disinfected. Doctors often prescribe braces and protective footwear to prevent injuries to the feet. The best treatment for neuropathy in the feet is to take care of them and inspect them daily.
Treatment for Drop in Blood Pressure
People with neuropathy may experience a drop in blood pressure when they stand up. Known as orthostatic hypotension, this is an autonomic symptom. For mild symptoms, it's possible to correct this problem by increasing sodium intake. Other treatments include medications to constrict blood vessels, balance salt levels in the body and help neurotransmitters.
Treatment for Gastroparesis
Another autonomic symptom of neuropathy is gastroparesis. This refers to delayed emptying of the stomach and occurs from extensive nerve damage in the digestive tract. Pain medication helps with the abdominal pain and discomfort. Other prescription medications, such as Reglan and antiemetics, control the nausea and vomiting.
Lifestyle Changes That Help Neuropathy
People with diabetes should take care of their feet, keeping them clean and dry and regularly inspecting them for cuts and sores. Regular exercise helps reduce pain and improve muscle strength. Adopting a healthy diet keeps weight down and blood glucose levels in check while ensuring the proper nutrition. Smoking and alcohol consumption can worsen neuropathy symptoms, and avoiding both has proven to be an effective treatment.
Alternative Treatments for Neuropathy
Some people turn to alternative remedies to treat the symptoms of neuropathy. These treatments haven't been studied as extensively as the others but show some promise. Many can be used in conjunction with traditional treatments. Acupuncture, herbs and amino acid treatments are all popular with those who prefer holistic approaches to treat neuropathy.