Neuropathy is caused by damage to the nerves and the results can be feelings of numbness, tingling and pain in the extremities such as the hands and feet. Improving your diet, exercising and taking nutritional supplements are ways to help neuropathy.
What is neuropathy and are there different types?
Dr. Chris Serafini: When we reference neuropathy, we usually reference it as peripheral neuropathy. Basically, it is a result of damage to your peripheral nerves. Oftentimes it causes weakness, numbness, or pain, usually in your hands and your feet. It can also affect other areas of your body. Your peripheral nervous system really sends information from your brain to your spinal cord out to the rest of your body. Peripheral neuropathy results from traumatic injuries, infections, metabolic problems, and exposure to toxins. One of the most common is diabetic neuropathy. Once again, we do kind of lump them together and call them peripheral neuropathy, but most oftentimes, we associate things with diabetic neuropathy.
What symptoms do people experience if they have neuropathy and how does it get diagnosed?
Dr. Chris Serafini: Peripheral neuropathy – usually you can describe it as pain and stabbing, burning, or tingling. In many cases symptoms improve, especially if caused by treatable conditions. Like I said, a lot of times it is metabolic in nature. Other symptoms include different types of nerves that are affected. So you have to really figure that part out. There’s sensory nerves. They tell you about sensation. Sensation for touch, temperature, vibration, pain. Motor nerves control muscle movement. Autonomic nerves control functions like blood pressure, heart rate, digestion, bladder. So your signs and symptoms would be mostly gradual onset of numbness, prickling or tingling in your feet and hands, sharp, jabbing, throbbing, freezing pain or burning pain, or extreme sensitivity to touch. Lack of coordination, falling, muscle weakness or paralysis, if it is involved with the motor nerves.
As far as diagnosing, there is not a specific neuropathy test. There is no specific test to diagnose it. Most of the time doctors are going to use your history, a neurologic exam, maybe a nerve biopsy. We might use blood if we think it is a blood sugar issue like diabetic neuropathy. But there is not really a specific test.
Is neuropathy most common in older people? And are there certain people at risk for getting it?
Dr. Chris Serafini: It is not necessarily associated with older people, although older people, they damage their body over a period of time. A lot of the issues with neuropathy are metabolic in nature but it is not necessarily older generation.
There are certain people at risk. You are at risk if you have bad diet and lifestyle habits, to be honest. Obviously, diabetics are at a very high risk. But other than that, you can see neuropathies in lots of different age ranges.
What treatments are available to help people with neuropathy?
Dr. Chris Serafini: Most often times, like I said, it is really going to be some sort of diet and lifestyle changes. You need to eat a good diet. You’ve got to start exercising. Some supplements that are very specific, especially for diabetic neuropathy. Wonderful results with alpha lipoic acid. That is a great blood sugar regulator. Supplementation can help a lot but most of the time it is going to be some sort of diet, lifestyle changes, exercising, things like that.
Do you have any lifestyle tips for people living with neuropathy to help manage their symptoms?
Dr. Chris Serafini: Yes. You basically want to try to prevent the effects of it as much as possible. So once again, supplementation, diet, exercise. Avoid certain risk factors that increase your risk like smoking, drinking alcohol, exposure to toxins, things like that.
If you are interested in speaking with Dr. Chris Serafini, visit www.thescottsdalechiropractor.com or call 480-443-7678 to schedule an appointment.