At least 20 million Americans have been diagnosed with some form of neuropathy, according to the National Institutes of Health. The agency also points out that number doesn’t include the many men and women who suffer from neuropathy symptoms, but haven’t been “officially” diagnosed with the condition.
Causing symptoms like numbness, tingling, and painful pins-and-needles sensations, neuropathy occurs when the peripheral nerves — nerves outside the central nervous system — are damaged by disease or injury. As a leading pain management physician with practices in Carmel, Kokomo, and Indianapolis, Indiana, Jonathan Gentile, MD, offers these important tips to help patients manage their symptoms and lead healthier, more comfortable lives.
Exercise offers plenty of benefits for people with neuropathy. Not only can it help you shed excess pounds that could be pressing on nerves, but it can elevate your mood and improve your circulation, too. Plus, some exercises can improve your balance, which is often impaired in people with neuropathy in their feet.
Most people know smoking is a major cause of cancer, lung disease, and cardiovascular disease, but did you know it can also harm your nerves? It’s true. Smoking interferes with circulation, increasing your risk of developing neuropathy while also making your symptoms worse. Quitting smoking improves circulation for better nerve health.
Without adequate treatment, peripheral neuropathy can lead to anxiety and depression. One of the best ways to combat these problems is to get out of your house and take part in activities you enjoy. And if you begin to feel depressed or isolated as a result of your symptoms, try reaching out to a support group. The Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy maintains a list of support groups, including online groups, to help you find the support you need.
Manage underlying disease (like diabetes)
Peripheral neuropathy is often caused by an underlying medical problem that causes nerve damage. In the United States, one of the most common causes of neuropathy is diabetes. Researchers think elevated blood sugar damages tiny nerves, resulting in pain, numbness, and a complete loss of sensation, especially in your feet.
Managing diabetes — or any underlying condition associated with nerve problems — can go a long way toward relieving your neuropathy symptoms. Even if you haven’t been diagnosed with an underlying condition, Dr. Gentile will perform an exam and order testing to look for possible causes before deciding on your treatment plan.
Check your medicine
You take medicine to feel better, so it can be kind of surprising to learn that the medicine you take for one condition might actually make another condition worse. Unfortunately, there are some medications — including some antibiotics, heart medications, and blood pressure medicines — that can make neuropathy symptoms a lot worse. If you're taking any medication, be sure to let Dr. Gentile know during your visit so he can decide if you might need to switch to an alternative option.
Neuropathy can be a progressive disease, which means the longer you ignore your symptoms and put off treatment, the worse your symptoms may become. Dr. Gentile offers both medication-based treatments and spinal cord stimulation, a state-of-the-art treatment that uses a tiny, implantable device to disrupt nerve signals responsible for pain. Plus, he can provide you with the support you need to enjoy a healthier life overall.
If you have painful nerve symptoms, don’t put off getting the relief you need. Call the office or book an appointment online, and learn how Dr. Gentile can help.