What Is Peripheral Neuropathy?
Signals are transmitted from the brain and the spinal cord to the rest of the body including your legs, feet, hands, arms, mouth, face and internal organs by the peripheral nervous system. And, when the peripheral nerves are damaged or destroyed, it causes the nerves to malfunction and causes peripheral neuropathy, which causes tingling, numbness, weakness, and pain in the feet and hands. It may also affect other parts of the body.
The symptoms usually affect both the hands and feet. Peripheral neuropathy affects different types of nerves including the autonomic and motor sensory nerves. Peripheral neuropathy can also be classified according to the size of the nerve fibers, small or large.
Peripheral neuropathy can affect:
- One nerve – mononeuropathy. An example of this is carpal tunnel syndrome.
- 2 or more nerves in different areas – multiple neuropathies
- Several nerves – polyneuropathy
What Are The Symptoms Of Peripheral Neuropathy?
Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy include:
- The slow start of tingling, prickling or numbness in the hands and feet that can spread to the arms and legs.
- Sharp burning, throbbing, freezing or jabbing pain.
- Sensitivity to touching.
- No coordination and falling.
- A weakness of muscle or paralysis in case the motor nerves are affected.
In the case that the autonomic nerves are affected, the symptoms include:
- Intolerance to heat and altered sweating.
- Digestive, bladder or bowel problems.
- Changes in the blood pressure which causes lightheadedness or dizziness.
What Are The Causes Of Peripheral Neuropathy?
Peripheral neuropathy can be caused due to:
- Systemic illness, an injury
- Inherited disorders such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease
- Infections such as shingles, Lyme disease, hepatitis C, Epstein-Barr virus, HIV, diphtheria, and leprosy
- Alcoholism, diabetes, tumors
- Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Sjogren's syndrome, Guillain-Barre syndrome, necrotizing vasculitis and chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy
- Exposure to toxic substances like chemicals or heavy metals
- Medications like those used to treat cancer, etc.
- Pressure on the nerve or trauma due to falls, sports injuries or accidents, etc.
- Deficiency of vitamins B1, B6, B12, niacin and vitamin E
- Bone marrow disorders bone cancer (osteosclerosis myeloma), presence of abnormal protein in the blood (monoclonal gammopathies), amyloidosis and lymphoma
- Other diseases such as liver disease, kidney disease, hypothyroidism and disorders of the connective tissue
What Are The Things One Should Do To Manage Peripheral Neuropathy?
- The best way to prevent the occurrence of peripheral neuropathy is to manage the conditions of diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.
- Monitor blood glucose levels if you have diabetes, as keeping the blood sugar under control
- Exercise regularly for around 30 minutes to 1 hour at least thrice a week.
- Use cold or warm packs to provide relief.
- If you suffer from diabetes, take special care of your feet.
Check for cuts, blisters or calluses.
Wear loose and soft cotton socks.
Wear padded shoes.
Use a semi-circular hoop to prevent your bedcovers from touching your hot and sensitive feet.
What Are The Things One Should Avoid To Manage Peripheral Neuropathy?
Avoid things that cause nerve damage such as:
- Cramped positions, repetitive motions
- Exposure to toxic chemicals
- Smoking, as this affects circulation and increases the risk of neuropathy complications and foot problems.
- Drinking alcohol, as this can worsen the condition of peripheral neuropathy.
What Are The Best Foods For Peripheral Neuropathy?
- Eat a healthy diet rich in vegetables, fruits, lean protein and whole grains to keep your nerves healthy.
- Eat foods rich in vitamin B12 such as fish, meats, low-fat dairy, eggs and fortified cereals to prevent vitamin B12 deficiency helps to reduce neuropathy pain.
- Having a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as flaxseed oil, fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, halibut, walnuts, etc. helps to reduce neuropathy pain.
- Foods like olive oil, coffee, salmon, thyme, ginger, turmeric and resveratrol that is found in grapes help to reduce neuropathy pain.
- Consume soy, fish, lentils, moderate healthy fats such as seeds, nuts, vegetable oils, etc. instead of foods that are high in fat.
What Are The Worst Foods For Peripheral Neuropathy?
- Foods containing gluten such as barley, wheat, rye, bread, cereals, pasta, crackers, cakes, pastries, cookies, etc. trigger the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy and make it worse. Consume foods like potatoes, rice, corn, oatmeal, rice-based cereals and gluten-free foods instead.
- Avoid refined grains and products such as white bread, white rice, potatoes, pretzels, crackers, etc. as they worsen the condition of peripheral neuropathy and replace with nutritious foods like brown rice, quinoa, oats, etc.
- Avoid refined sugar and sugary foods like frozen desserts, jellies, bakes foods like cookies, cakes, pastries, pies, etc., sugary cereals, candy, soft drinks etc. as they worsen the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.
- Avoid consuming high-fat meats and dairy products such as beef, pork, lamb, organ meats, fried foods, full-fat cream, full-fat ice cream, whole milk, full-fat cheese, etc. cause inflammation and worsen the condition of peripheral neuropathy.
- Avoid inflammatory foods such as sugar, alcohol, trans fats, saturated fats and omega-6 oils such as safflower oil, soybean oil and corn oil as these worsen the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.
- Avoid foods like nightshade vegetables such as peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers, barbecued foods and charred foods, etc. as they worsen the pain due to peripheral neuropathy.
What Are The Medicines For Peripheral Neuropathy?
What Are The Tips To Manage Peripheral Neuropathy?
- Reduce anxiety and stress by using techniques such as massage, meditation, relaxation techniques and acupuncture to prevent the risk of peripheral neuropathy.
- Following a regular exercise routine such as walking, tai chi, yoga, etc, can help to reduce peripheral neuropathy pain.
Some natural remedies for peripheral neuropathy are:
- You can use supplements or tea made of vinegar, guava leaves, bitter melon or mulberry leaves to reduce postprandial sugars and prevent peripheral neuropathy.
- Alpha-lipoic acid has been used as a remedy for several years in Europe for peripheral neuropathy.
- Herbs like evening primrose oil can help to reduce peripheral neuropathy pains in people with diabetes.
- Having supplements of acetyl-L- carnitine or consuming foods rich in this chemical such as dairy products, peanut butter, and red meat can help to reduce peripheral neuropathy pains.
- Taking supplements of B complex and vitamin E can help to reduce the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.
- Taking the herbal supplement, St. John's Wort, can help to reduce the pains caused by peripheral neuropathy.
- Using topical creams that contain capsaicin helps to reduce the burning sensation caused by peripheral neuropathy.
- Lavender has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties and can help to reduce the swelling of the nerves. Applying some drops of lavender oil 2-3 times a day to the affected areas to reduce the pain. Smelling the oil can also help to relax and reduce anxiety and help in the relief of peripheral neuropathy symptoms.
- Soy contains vitamin B6 that can help to reduce the pain caused by peripheral neuropathy as consuming soy stimulates serotonin production that helps to reduce the pain. You can drink soy milk or include soy in your recipes.
- Applying rosemary oil to the affected areas of your hands and feet a few times in a day can help to reduce pain caused by peripheral neuropathy, as rosemary has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Peppermint is a natural painkiller and can help to cure peripheral neuropathy as it helps to improve the blood circulation in the body and also helps to control muscle spasms. Boil a few peppermint leaves in water and drink the tea or simply rub the peppermint leaves over the affected area for relief.
- Broccoli is a great source of vitamin C and helps to protect the nerves from getting inflamed. So, include a lot of broccoli in your diet to reduce pains caused due to peripheral neuropathy.