Diabetic peripheral neuropathy is caused by nerve damage in the arms and/or legs and is often associated with fluctuating glucose levels in diabetic patients. However, many diabetic patients keep their glucose levels normal but still get neuropathy symptoms.
Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy Treatments
Your medical professional might have told you there are no effective treatments. This article will break down the different approaches to treatment and symptom management.
The basics – Blood Glucose Levels
For some people, managing blood glucose levels will slow down or even prevent further diabetic peripheral neuropathy. However, it is important to realize that neuropathy is not always caused by fluctuating blood glucose levels.
This is important to know for two reasons. Firstly, if you have diabetes you have to be aware that you can be affected by neuropathy, even if you have normal blood glucose levels. Secondly, having neuropathy does not automatically mean that someone has been irresponsible with their blood glucose levels.
Pain Relief and Pain Management
Pain caused by diabetic peripheral neuropathy can have a profound impact on one’s life. Even if pain is not excruciating, it distracts, gets worse at night, keeps you awake, and can cause a vicious cycle that results in a very depressing situation.
Many of the treatments are focused on symptom management, and in this case pain management. The main categories for prescribed pain relief are:
- Tricyclic Antidepressants, such as amitriptyline, imipramine, and desipramine (Norpramin, Pertofrane)
- other types of antidepressants, such as Cymbalta, Wellbutrin, Paxil and Celexa
- Anticonvulsants, such as Lyrica, Gabarone, Neurontin and Lamictal
- Opioids and opioid-like drugs, such as controlled-release oxycodone and tramadol (Ultram)
Simplified, most of these prescription drugs block or inhibit pain receptors, preventing you from feeling the pain or making the pain less intense.
Among the other options used for pain management are lidocaine patches and capsaicin creams.
Other Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy Treatment Options
lease consult your medical professional(s) before trying any of the neuropathy treatment options in this article. This article is not medical advice, but points out available options that have worked for other people.
Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA)
More and more evidence supports that neuropathy progresses at least in part due to oxidative stress caused by free radicals. ALA is an anti-oxidant, neutralizing free radicals. In additional, ALA has the ability to recycle other anti-oxidants like vitamin C and glutathione.
In Germany, ALA is licensed and has been used as a neuropathy treatment for over 40 years.
Evening Primrose Oil (EPO)
Evening Primrose Oil (EPO) contains two types of Omega 6 fatty acids: linolenic acid (LA) and Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA). These fatty acids are essential to increase production of anti-inflammatory prostaglandins that reduce pain and inflammation.
In a 1992 study, patients were taking 480mg GLA per day for a one year period. The conclusion of the study was that GLA had a beneficial effect on the course of neuropathy.
During the last decades acupuncture has received increasing attention in the West. There has been at least one study that has reviewed acupuncture as a neuropathy treatment.
The study was published in March, 2010. Acupuncture was administered for a 3 month period. The study’s conclusion was that acupuncture may show good effects for neuropathy.
Peripheral neuropathy refers to damage to the peripheral nervous system, which carries all messages to the brain. Peripheral nerves, when damaged, cannot carry, or carry distorted messages, to the brain from the extremities.
Symptoms may include numbness, itching, burning, paralysis, not sweating normally, impaired sexual function, blood pressure fluctuation and even organ failure. Each peripheral nerve has a significant function assigned to it and the problem crops up when these nerves are damaged.
Research shows that there are more than 100 types of peripheral neuropathies. Motor nerves control the muscular actions like walking and talking. Sensory nerves help recognize a gentle touch or a cut, and autonomic nerves control involuntary actions like breathing, heart beat and food digestion. Neuropathy may affect all three classifications, but in most cases it affects only one or two. Doctors make use of terms such as predominantly motor neuropathy or predominantly sensory neuropathy to express the patient’s state.
Symptoms vary depending on the type of nerve that is damaged. If it’s a motor nerve, weak muscles or painful cramps could result. If a sensory nerve is damaged, a patient may not able to experience touch, feel as if they are wearing a glove though they are not, be unable to recognize small shapes by touching, or become unable to stand when they have their eyes closed. If the damaged nerve is an autonomic nerve, then it can be life-threatening. Breathing could become difficult, heartbeat irregular; fainting when moving from sitting to standing could result. Gastrointestinal symptoms can be an adjunct to autonomic neuropathy, when nerves controlling intestinal muscles are damaged. It could result in constipation, diarrhea, or trouble eating and swallowing.
Causes for peripheral neuropathy include injury (e.g., Automobile accident), systemic diseases (e.g., Diabetes), viral or bacterial infections, and genetic conditions. Diagnosing peripheral neuropathy is difficult as the symptoms are capricious. The doctor must do a thorough physical examination, take the patient’s history, and note the work environment, general activities etc. Treatments for peripheral neuropathy are in place but there is still no treatment for inherited neuropathy. In general, maintaining healthy habits like avoiding alcohol and quitting smoking is most important as these hamper the blood vessels that provide nutrients. Weight management, exercise, balanced diet, and eliminating vitamin deficiencies help prevent peripheral neuropathy.