You know the feeling well if you've ever experienced tingling, burning, or numbness in your hands or feet. Your hands may feel weak when you're trying to button a shirt, or your feet may feel chilly even in the heat of summer. These common neuropathy symptoms may leave you wondering, "Is there any way to cure or reverse neuropathy?"
There are many different causes of neuropathy, but diabetes is a major contributor in the United States. It is possible to treat and even cure mild cases of neuropathy. When neuropathy cannot be reversed, treatment centers on controlling and managing symptoms and protecting the nerves from future damage.
What is Neuropathy?
Numbness, tingling, muscle weakness, and pain are classic symptoms of neuropathy caused by injury or malfunction of one or more nerves. Although neuropathies most often manifest themselves in the hands and feet, they can affect any body area.
Neuropathy, sometimes known as peripheral neuropathy, is a disorder of the nerves in the body's periphery. The term "peripheral nervous system" describes nerves extending beyond the central nervous system. The central nervous system includes both your brain and spinal cord.
Consider the interplay between the two systems in this light: Your brain and spinal cord make up the central station of your body. This is where everything is managed, the central station from which all trains depart and arrive. Akin to a train station's connecting rails, your peripheral nervous system relays information to and from your brain and spinal cord. The trains (information signals) can get to and from the hub thanks to the tracks (the nervous system) & (your brain and spinal cord).
Neuropathy develops when neurons, the nerve cells that transmit nerve impulses, are compromised or killed. This disrupts the brain's and neurons' ability to communicate with one another. Single nerves (mononeuropathy) or nerve types can be affected, several nerves in a localized location (multifocal neuropathy), or many peripheral nerves system-wide can be affected (polyneuropathy).
Diagnosis of Neuropathy
As a first step in the treatment, any underlying medical condition, such as diabetes or infection, is diagnosed and addressed. It is possible to treat and even cure mild cases of neuropathy. However, not all patients with neuropathy can be treated. Symptom management and prevention of additional nerve injury are the primary goals of treatment. The following can be done as a form of treatment:
- Medicines: There are pain relievers available to help. Various drugs can manage pain due to chemicals altering pain signaling pathways in the brain and the rest of the nervous system. The following drugs fall into this category:
- Antidepressants like duloxetine and nortriptyline.
- Antiseizure medication used to prevent seizures, such as pregabalin (Lyrica®) or gabapentin (Neurontin®, Gralise®).
- Medications such as lidocaine (Lidoderm®, Xylocaine®) and capsaicin (Capsin®, Zostrix®) are applied topically (on the skin) to alleviate pain.
- Due to the lack of proof that they are effective, narcotics are rarely used to treat the pain of neuropathy.
- Physical therapy: You can improve your strength, balance, and range of motion with the help of physical therapy exercises and other treatments.
- Occupational therapy: it’s a great way to learn new ways of dealing with discomfort and loss of function and developing skills to compensate for them.
- Surgery: patients with compression-related neuropathy, such as that caused by a herniated disc in the neck or back, an infection, a tumor, or a nerve entrapment illness like carpal tunnel syndrome, have access to surgical treatment options.
- Mechanical aids: by providing support or maintaining appropriate alignment of the afflicted nerves, mechanical aids like braces and specially fitted shoes, casts and splints can assist in alleviating discomfort.
- Proper nutrition: eating a balanced diet high in vitamins and other nutrients is integral to maintaining good nutrition.
- Healthy living habits: building muscle through exercise, giving up tobacco, watching one's diet, and cutting back on booze are all examples of healthy lifestyle choices.
- TENS (Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation): Using electrodes placed on the skin at or near the nerves causing your discomfort, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) can help alleviate your symptoms. The electrodes send a mild electrical current through your skin at a low voltage. Your therapist will figure up an appropriate treatment plan (including how often and for how long). TENS therapy works by interfering with pain signals before reaching the brain.
- Immune modulating or immune-suppressing treatments: treatments that work by inhibiting or regulating the immune system are utilized for people whose neuropathy is caused by an autoimmune disorder. Some of these therapies can be taken orally. In contrast, like plasmapheresis, others involve having your blood drawn and then returned to your body after removing antibodies and other immune system cells. The treatment focuses on halting the immune system's assault on the nervous system.
- Complementary treatments: it is also possible to try alternative therapies such as acupuncture, massage, alpha-lipoic acid, herbal items, meditation/yoga, behavioral therapy, and psychotherapy for neuropathic pain. Consult your healthcare provider to find out if any of these therapies might help you overcome the root cause of your neuropathy.
Can Neuropathy Be Stopped?
The root cause of your neuropathy will determine your progress in the future. Neuropathy can be stopped, or its progression halted if the underlying cause is addressed. Assuming the root cause of neuropathy cannot be addressed, the focus shifts to relieving the condition's debilitating symptoms to get your life back on track.
Early detection and therapy increase the likelihood of slowing or reversing nerve damage. If recovery is possible, it could take months or even years. Neuropathy can be a chronic condition for those who suffer from it.