Did you know that there are times when pain can actually be a good thing for you? Think for a moment about what it would be like if you had nerve damage and were unable to feel a hot stove burner when you accidentally put your hand down on it. If you weren’t paying attention, you might leave it on the burner until you started to smell your hand burning!
When viewed in that context, you can see how pain is a tool your body uses so your brain is aware of an existing issue. It allows us to recognize signs of danger, and then take appropriate action. If your nerves are working correctly, you feel the heat from the burner and quickly move your hand away.
Now, just because pain “can” be a good thing it doesn’t always mean this is always the case. When you frequently experience sharp, burning, or tingling pain, that’s a problem. Both painful sensations and numbness are symptoms of peripheral neuropathy. Even though there are different reasons you need treatment, the simple fact remains – this condition needs to be addressed.
There are numerous reasons peripheral neuropathy develops. Perhaps the most common is diabetes, but it also can happen in response to toxin exposure or in conjunction with vitamin deficiencies. In addition to diabetes, there are other medical issues that can lead to the problem. This is important to note since treatment for the nerve damage will depend, at least in part, on the reason the neuropathy developed in the first place.
Other factors can certainly play a role in caring for nerve damage, but some peripheral neuropathy treatment options can include:
- Medications – This approach is primarily used to treat existing pain. Antidepressants, anti-seizure medications, pain relievers, and topical treatments can all be beneficial in treating certain types of nerve pain.
- Therapy – There are therapies and nonsurgical procedures that can be used to ease the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), plasma exchange, and intravenous immune globulin are all examples of therapeutic treatment. If nerve damage is causing muscle weakness, you may also benefit from physical therapy.
- Surgery – As with any course of action, our goal for peripheral nerve treatment is to use conservative care when possible. In some cases, though, surgery is needed to properly address nerve problems.
Although custom orthotics do not treat peripheral neuropathy, your doctor may prescribe these medical devices as a way to keep pressure off specific areas of your feet. In some cases, this is an instrumental measure for preventing ulceration. Diabetic foot ulcers are a leading cause of lower limb amputation, so reducing the risk of them developing is immeasurably important.
The best form of treatment for peripheral neuropathy, is to prevent it from happening in the first place. To that end, you can take measures to improve your overall nerve health. Some of the best practices for having strong, healthy nerves include:
- Drink lots of water. While drinking water is so important for your physical health, it is absolutely essential for the health of your nerves. Drink plenty of water (not soda or other sugary beverages) throughout the day to keep your nerves strong.
- Eat a balanced diet. Your nerves rely on certain nutrients—like niacin and vitamins B and E—for their health. You can take a, but a better approach is to eat a diet rich in fresh vegetables. The nutrients from actual foods are better absorbed and utilized by the body than those found in multivitamins.
- Exercise regularly. It is important to consult with both your primary care physician and your podiatrist at Foot & Ankle Associates of Florida to assess your fitness levels and determine how much physical activity you can handle before starting an exercise program. We can help you understand the guidelines for a safe, effective workout that will keep your nerves healthy due to improved blood flow and better oxygen absorption.
- Manage diabetes (and other medical conditions). There’s a close link between peripheral neuropathy and diabetes, so it is important to stay on top of your diabetes management to reduce your risk of nerve damage. Remember, elevated blood sugar levels contribute to nerve deterioration!
- Stop all tobacco usage. Using tobacco products, lead to constricted blood vessels that deprive your nerves of the essential nutrients needed for optimal health.
For more information about the peripheral nerve treatment we offer at our five Florida offices, or to receive assistance in setting an appointment, give us a call at 407-339-7759 or 352-589-9550 (if you call from Lake County). You can also request your appointment with Foot & Ankle Associates of Florida online.