Neuropathy Treatments

Neuropathy is nerve damage that results in pain, weakness or numbness in the legs, feet, arms or hands.

Symptoms

There are a variety of symptoms that develop gradually over time, and can vary based on the nerve(s) damaged and their location in the body.

Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral Neuropathy affects the legs and feet first, followed by the hands and arms.  Often the symptoms are worse at night and might include: numbness, tingling, burning or sharp pains, and cramps.  The affected areas might be sensitive to touch, with muscle weakness, loss of reflexes, balance and coordination, and foot problems including ulcers, infections, deformities, bone, and joint pain.

Autonomic Neuropathy

The autonomic nervous system controls numerous organs like the heart, lungs, stomach, eyes, and bladder.  Symptoms might include: low blood sugar levels, urinary infections, retention or incontinence, constipation or diarrhea, nausea, vomiting or bloating, body temperature, blood pressure or heart rate irregularities, increased or decreased sweating, erectile dysfunction in men, and vaginal dryness in women.

Radiculoplexus Neuropathy

Radiculoplexus neuropathy affects the legs, hips, buttocks, and is more common with older adults and patients with type 2 diabetes.  Symptoms usually occur on one side of the body and might include: sudden severe pain, weakness or atrophied muscles, difficulty standing, abdominal swelling, and weight loss.

Mononeuropathy

Mononeuropathy is a damaged nerve in the torso, leg, or face that has a sudden onset in older adults.  The condition can cause severe pain in the face, foot, shin, lower back, pelvis, front thigh, chest, or abdomen.  It can lead to paralysis in one side of the face, and cause double vision or difficulty focusing the eyes.

Causes

Diabetic neuropathy can be caused by nerve inflammation from an autoimmune response, genetic predisposition, smoking, or alcohol abuse.  Peripheral neuropathy can be caused by similar conditions, diabetes, exposure to poisons, medications (chemotherapy), infections (hepatitis), genetic disorders (Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease), nerve injury or pressure, tumors, vitamin b deficiencies, bone marrow disorders, and other diseases (kidney or liver disease).

Treatments

Physicians can use a variety of medications, therapies, and procedures to slow the condition’s progress, relieve pain, manage complications, and restore functionality.

Self Care

Physicians recommend a healthy diet, avoiding smoking, keeping blood pressure under control, and incorporating daily motion like stretching, walking or core strengthening exercises (stomach and back) to help reduce pain.

Alternative Care

Chiropractic manipulation and massages can provide temporary pain relief, while acupuncture and yoga can help improve mobility and reduce pain.  Primrose oil, alpha-lipoic acid, and amino acids have helped some patients reduce.

Medications

Patients can try over-the-counter (OTC) acetaminophen (Tylenol) or anti- inflammatory medications (ibuprofen or naproxen) to reduce mild to moderate pain.  If the pain doesn’t improve, physicians can prescribe anticonvulsants (Gabapentin) or opioids (OxyContin) for pain relief, and antidepressants (Pamelor) to reduce the perception of pain.

Therapies

Patients can apply topical pain gels or creams to reduce sensitivity, and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) to help relieve nerve pain.  Gentle and supervised physical therapy can improve a patient’s strength and range of motion.  Psychotherapy can help patients cope with depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder that make pain worse.

Radiofrequency Ablation or Sympathectomy

Sympathectomy (cutting) or Radiofrequency ablation (burning) destroys nerves causing pain, and can be used if other treatments only provide temporary pain relief.

Spinal Cord Stimulation

Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) delivers mild electrical stimulation to nerves along the spinal column minimizing the sensation of pain.  A minimally invasive and drug-free treatment option, SCS is a FDA approved therapy with proven results.  The treatment has been used successfully for 30 years, and includes a 3-10 day trial period to ensure success before surgically implanting in the body.

Specialists

These doctors specialize in Neuropathic pain and can help diagnose, treat, and manage your condition.

Anesthesiologist

A doctor that administers medicine to put patients asleep during surgery, renders them numb for local procedures, or reduces chronic pain through injections.

Physiatrist

A doctor specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation that treats both acute and chronic pain with a variety of nonsurgical treatments.

Neurosurgeon

A surgeon that diagnoses and treats pain resulting from disorders of the spine, spinal cord, nerves, brain, intracranial, and intraspinal vasculature.

To learn more about neuropathy, please visit the Mayo Clinic.