Haven't Got Time For the Pain...of Neuropathy

dLife readers ask how to escape the painful grip of neuropathy.

Theresa Garnero By Theresa Garnero, APRN, BC-ADM, MSN, CDE

What is neuropathy?

Neuropathy is the damage that occurs to the nerves as a result of uncontrolled glucose levels. It occurs in about half of all people with diabetes and can be very painful. Neuropathy can also show itself in less obvious forms.

Do you have any of these symptoms?

  • Tingling, burning, stabbing pains in the hands or feet, typically worse at night
  • Very hot or cold hands or feet.
  • Numb or dry feet.
  • Feeling like you are wearing socks when you're not.
  • Balance problems when walking.
  • Frequent indigestion or nausea.
  • Bloating and feeling full after very little food.
  • Bowel problems (frequent diarrhea or constipation).
  • Bladder frequency, leakage, urinary infections.
  • Sexual problems (arousal or orgasm problems).
  • Fast heart beat while resting.
  • Dizziness when standing.
  • Low blood glucose with no warning.
  • Breaking out in sweat with certain foods.

Treatment for neuropathy

  • Glucose control prevents the onset or progression of, and in some cases may reverse neuropathy. Pain from neuropathy is difficult to manage. New treatments offer much needed relief for those struggling with the pain of neuropathy.
  • Medications may help address and minimize the symptoms of neuropathy (antidepressants, anticonvulsants, topical creams, and narcotic analgesics for breakthrough pain). They do not get at the underlying cause of the neuropathy.
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) delivers tiny electrical impulses along specific nerve pathways through small pads placed on your skin which may stop pain signals from reaching the brain.
  • Biofeedback therapy uses a special machine that teaches you how to control your response to pain.
  • Monochromatic Infrared Therapy is a huge breakthrough for people dealing with neuropathy. Similar to the beam of light in a TV remote control, infrared treatment beams light through a pad of 90 of these diodes placed over the affected part of your body (for example, your foot). The light goes through the skin, causes nitric oxide to be released from the red blood cell and improves circulation. This same treatment has worked miracles in healing stubborn wounds. The company with much research on the topic is Anodyne Therapy (Anodyne means without pain). You can find a physical therapist or physician in your area that provides this treatment by visiting www.anodynetherapy.com or calling 1-800-521-6664. I have done case studies using this therapy and have witnessed the dramatic improvement in peoples' pain level, and quality of life (and no, I don't work for Anodyne!). Once you have neuropathy, you would need ongoing treatments. Home units are available for purchase.

Diabetes can get on your nerves. With today's treatments, neuropathy can be managed so you can get on with life and out from under the thumb of neuropathy. Start by talking with your healthcare provider about your options. You can also contact the Neuropathy Association for more information by visiting www.neuropathy.org or calling 1-212-692-0662.

Read Theresa's bio here.

Read more of Theresa Garnero's columns.

NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition.

Last Modified Date: January 27, 2014

All content on dLife.com is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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by Brenda Bell
Many people say that depression is a side effect or complication of diabetes. Without discounting the association of the psychological condition with the physical one, I'm not convinced that our high and/or unstable glucose levels are directly responsible for that change in our mental state. My belief is that the unrelenting need for self-care, for following the sort of care schedules that can drive licensed, professional caregivers crazy, is what overwhelms us...
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