HIV/AIDS and Peripheral Neuropathy

HIV/AIDS and Peripheral Neuropathy

Is it sunny and warm or hot and humid today?

Is it sunny and warm or hot and humid today?

If you have HIV/AIDS, at some point in the progression of your disease you’ll probably develop peripheral nerve damage or peripheral neuropathy. HIV/AIDS peripheral neuropathy is common by most estimates, in roughly one-third of HIV/AIDS patients especially in advanced cases.

While that may not be surprising, what you should also know is that some forms of peripheral nerve damage like Guillain-Barre Syndrome and Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP) may affect early onset patients.

Your doctor may even be able to tell how far your HIV/AIDS has progressed by diagnosing the type of peripheral neuropathy you’ve developed.  As your disease progresses, your peripheral neuropathy will as well.

Exactly What Is Peripheral Neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathy is a condition that develops when the peripheral nervous system is damaged by a condition like diabetes, cancer or HIV/AIDS.  When these nerves are damaged, they no longer communicate properly and all the bodily functions they govern are disrupted.

Depending upon which nerves are damaged and the functions they serve, you can develop serious or even life threatening symptoms.

Why Do AIDS Patients Develop Peripheral Neuropathy?

HIV/AIDS patients develop peripheral neuropathy for a number of reasons[1]:

•      The virus can cause neuropathy.

Viruses can attack nerve tissue and severely damage sensory nerves. If those nerves are damaged, you’re going to feel the pain, quickly.

The virus that causes HIV, in particular, can cause extensive damage to the peripheral nerves.  Often, the progression of the disease can actually be tracked according to the specific type of neuropathy the patient develops.  Painful polyneuropathy affecting the feet and hands can be one of first clinical signs of HIV infection.

•      Certain medications can cause peripheral neuropathy.

Peripheral neuropathy is a potential side effect of certain medications used to treat HIV/AIDS.  Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTI’s) or, in layman’s terms, the “d-drugs” (i.e., Didanosine, Videx, Zalcitabine, Hivid, Stavudine and Zerit) most often cause peripheral neuropathy.

Other drugs, such as those used to treat pneumocystis pneumonia, amoebic dysentery, Kaposi’s sarcoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, other cancers, wasting syndrome and severe mouth ulcers can all lead to peripheral neuropathy as well.

•      Opportunistic infections that HIV/AIDS patients are prone to develop are another cause of peripheral neuropathy.

The hepatitis C virus, Varicella zoster virus (shingles), syphilis and tuberculosis are all infections that can lead to problems with the peripheral nervous system.

How Do You Know If You Have Peripheral Neuropathy?

Most HIV/AIDS patients with peripheral neuropathy complain of[2]:

•     Burning

•     Stiffness

•     Prickly feeling in their extremities

•     Tingling

•     Numbness or loss of sensation in the toes and soles of the feet

•     Progressive weakness

•     Dizziness

•     Loss of bladder and bowel control

Why Should You Worry About Peripheral Neuropathy?

If your peripheral neuropathy affects the autonomic nervous system, you could develop

•     Blood pressure problems

•     Heart rate issues

•     Bladder or bowel control issues

•     Difficulty swallowing because your esophagus doesn’t function properly

•     Bloating

•     Heart burn

•     Inability to feel sensation in your hands and feet

Beyond being uncomfortable, any of these conditions can cause serious health issues; some can even be fatal.

Treatment Options for Peripheral Neuropathy

If you have HIV/AIDS and you think you’ve developed peripheral neuropathy, see a specialist immediately.  A good place to start is with your local NeuropathyDR® clinician for a treatment plan specifically designed for you.

You can help your neuropathy specialist treat you and help yourself, too, by:

•     Stop taking the drugs that cause peripheral neuropathy (but never discontinue drug therapy without supervision by your treating physician)

•     Start non-drug treatments to reduce pain like avoiding walking or standing for long periods, wearing looser shoes, and/or soaking your feet in ice water.

•     Make sure you’re eating properly.

•     Take safety precautions to compensate for any loss of sensation in your hands and feet, like testing your bath water with your elbow to make sure it’s not too hot or checking your shoes to make sure you don’t have a small rock or pebble in them before you put them on.

•     Ask about available pain medications if over the counter drugs aren’t helping.

Contact us today for information on the best course of treatment to deal with the pain of peripheral neuropathy caused by HIV/AIDS and taking steps to ensure that you don’t have permanent nerve damage.

For more information on coping with peripheral neuropathy, get your Free E-Book and subscription to the Weekly Ezine “Beating Neuropathy” at https://neuropathydr.com.

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Treating Chronic Pain with TLC: Why Emotional Support is  SO Vital (and How to Ask for the Help You Need)

Treating Chronic Pain with TLC: Why Emotional Support is SO Vital (and How to Ask for the Help You Need)

Don’t go it alone. Here’s why accepting support from family and friends is so important in treating chronic pain.Fotolia 5256891 XS 300x200 Treating Chronic Pain with TLC: Why Emotional Support is  SO Vital (and How to Ask for the Help You Need)

Although it may be a shocking idea, your personal support network may be equally as important to your health as your medical treatment team—or any kind of supplemental therapies.

Why? Because the bottom line is that a positive outlook is the best medicine for good health outcomes. If you are feeling contented and supported in your personal relationships, you’ll be much better equipped to cope with pain when it arises.

Unfortunately, many people find it hard to ask for help from their family and friends. We may have heard the message that it was weak or shameful to be dependent on others.

The truth is that when we are able to accept love and support, we’re better equipped to be as independent as possible in our daily lives.

Make a list of people in your life who have helped you in big and small ways in the past, as well as people that would probably be willing to help now if you were to ask.

Now, think about the things that are making your life the most difficult or stressful right now. This list could be anything from a leaky faucet in your kitchen to a pile of medical bills. Just get it all down on paper.

Finally, begin matching the list of stress points with the list of helpers in your life. Who could come over and fix that leaky faucet for you? Who could help you make phone calls to arrange a payment plan for those bills?

You will find that most of the people on your list are grateful for a chance to help you—they just didn’t know what to do that would be truly helpful. And when your stress level decreases (now that the leaky faucet or pile of bills is a thing of the past), your overall health will be optimized. That means chronic pain becomes less of a burden because you’re better able to cope with it.

Building your support network is just one way that you can take control of your own health and overcome chronic pain. Learn more by visiting our Facebook page.

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How to Improve Your Quality of Life with Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral Neuropathy Can Severely Impair Your Everyday Functioning—Unless You Take These Important Steps Back to Good Nerve Health

You already know from experience that peripheral neuropathy can have severe and destructive effects on your everyday quality of life. With neuropathic pain, even the easiest tasks can begin to feel impossible. It’s hard to work, to move around, or even to sleep when you are affected by nerve pain, numbness, and tingling.

When we talk about “quality of life” in the medical setting, we are looking at the degree to which you have been able to adapt to your medical condition. We take a look at things like your interactions with family and friends, your physical well-being, the activities you enjoy in your life, and your own perception of the state of your health.

That last one is crucially important. We know that your beliefs and attitudes about your underlying medical condition (such as diabetes, lupus, or HIV/AIDS) make a huge difference in your quality of life and your ability to deal with peripheral neuropathy symptoms.

Peripheral neuropathy is considered to be chronic pain. It’s not something that will come and go; people with peripheral neuropathy symptoms tend to experience them constantly. This kind of never-ending pain can be disruptive to your ability to work, your social life, your sleep routine, and your mental health. Many people with peripheral neuropathy become anxious or depressed due to their experience of chronic pain.

The Good News About Quality of Life with Peripheral Neuropathy

Let me share the good news about neuropathic pain. Although most nerve damage is permanent and there is no true cure for peripheral neuropathy, there are many things that you are able to do to improve your quality of life and regain close-to-normal functioning.

First, take good care of your feet, wear comfortable shoes and socks, and avoid going barefoot. Get foot massages to help reduce pain and improve your circulation. Call your doctor immediately if you notice any sore spots, blisters, or other issues on the soles of your feet.

Next, cut back on caffeine and nicotine. If you’re able to quit, do so! Nicotine has been shown to decrease your circulation, and caffeine most likely is making your peripheral neuropathy pain even worse.

Try to maintain an active lifestyle to the extent that is possible for you. Of course, you’ll need to check with your doctor or peripheral neuropathy clinician before beginning any exercise program. Exercise will improve your circulation, your mood, and your overall quality of life.

Finally, one of the most important changes you can make is to follow the NeuropathyDR® diet that provides everything your body needs to begin healing peripheral neuropathy. This is best undertaken under the supervision of a NeuropathyDR® specialist who can prescribe a custom treatment plan for your individual needs. To find a NeuropathyDR® specialist near you, click here.

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Neuropathy Pain Is Serious Business! The Hidden Dangers of Autonomic Neuropathy

Neuropathy Pain Can Lead to Serious and Life-Threatening Nerve Damage. Here’s What You Need to Know for Your Long-Term Health.

You already know that neuropathy pain can significantly impair your quality of life on a daily basis, and in a long-term way. But did you realize that ignoring neuropathy pain can actually contribute to the development of life-threatening illness?

When there is nerve damage to your autonomic systems (the parts of your body that function automatically, like digestion and blood pressure), these systems are likely to stop behaving like they should. This is called autonomic neuropathy, and it can actually threaten your life. Any impairment of autonomic systems is an immediate danger to your health.

When are you at risk for autonomic neuropathy? You should consult a qualified neuropathy physician if you have any of these conditions that are frequently associated with neuropathic pain and damage from autonomic neuropathy:

  • Diabetes
  • Cancer that is being treated with chemotherapy
  • AIDS or HIV
  • Lupus

It is also extremely important for you to seek the support of a NeuropathyDR® clinician if you are experiencing any of these nerve damage symptoms:

  • Unusual sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Tingling or numbness in extremities
  • Change in the way you feel sense hot and cold temperatures
  • Sexual problems
  • Loss of ability to control your limbs or fingers and toes

You might also be in a high-risk category for developing autonomic neuropathy related to neuropathic pain if you have had a severe injury or amputation. In these cases, be sure to see a NeuropathyDR® clinician for a consultation now, instead of waiting for symptoms to develop.

There are times when a trained physician can detect nerve damage before any symptoms arise, and early intervention in treatment is key—not just to quality of life over time in terms of neuropathy pain, but also avoiding life-threatening scenarios related to autonomic neuropathy.

For a list of NeuropathyDR® clinicians near you, see Find A Neuropathy Treatment Center.

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What Are the Key Elements of a Beneficial Neuropathy Diet?

Nutrition Plays a Big Role in Healing Neuropathy—and Poor Nutrition Can Make Your Symptoms Worse.

Neuropathy symptoms resulting from conditions like cancer, HIV/AIDS, lupus, diabetes, or shingles can make life pretty miserable. Unfortunately, a medical treatment program focused on managing neuropathy only through injections or other medication may ultimately provide you with little relief.
That’s because so many symptoms of neuropathy are caused or made worse by nutritional deficiencies. Only by addressing those key elements missing in your diet can you see substantial and long-term improvement in neuropathy pain.

A beneficial neuropathy diet is especially important for you if you’re also dealing with gastritis, Crohn’s disease, or similar types of digestive issues. In that case, your body is simply not able to absorb the needed nutrients from the foods you eat, leading to chronic vitamin deficiency that over time can encourage neuropathy symptoms. As you can see, your body’s ability to process nutrients properly can have systemic effects that go beyond your digestive system to alter your quality of life.

Fortunately, what this means is that you can take charge of your neuropathy symptoms by making dietary changes. Following a neuropathy diet, along with other supportive treatments recommended by your NeuropathyDR® clinician, is likely to manifest noticeable differences in your symptoms.

Key Elements of a Neuropathy Diet

A nutritional plan for neuropathy should include the following:

Lots of veges, beans and peas otherwise known as legumes and with any grains always going gluten free; these can be a great source of B vitamins to support nerve health.

  • Eggs and fish, which contain additional B vitamins including B1 and B12.
  • Fruits and vegetables with a yellow or orange color, including yellow bell peppers, squash, oranges, and carrots, which contain vitamin C and vitamin A for an immune system boost.
  • Kale, spinach, and other leafy green vegetables that offer magnesium and calcium for your immune system and nerve health.
  • Foods rich in vitamin E (avocado, almonds, unsalted peanuts, tomatoes, unsalted sunflower seeds, fish).

If there are any nutrient gaps in your neuropathy diet due to an inability to eat some of the foods listed above, your NeuropathyDR® clinician will work with you to provide an appropriate supplement.

Remember, one key way that you can take charge of your health starting today is to implement beneficial dietary changes. Your neuropathy diet can make all the difference in the world.

For more information about neuropathy diet components and other ways to take control of your neuropathy symptoms, take a look at these resources for Self-Guided Care.

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Healing Chronic Disease with the Power of Positive Attitude

How to Transform Negative Self-Talk into Positivity for Healing Chronic Disease

The bad news: Negative self-talk can be very damaging to your health.

The good news: You can easily learn to transform negative self-talk into positive thinking that can actively help you in healing chronic disease, from diabetes to cancer.

What is negative self-talk? This is the term for the kind of demeaning, insulting, or belittling internal messages that we give ourselves when we are frustrated by our perceived failings. “I’m so stupid.” “I always mess up.” “Nobody could ever love me.”

These messages are so hurtful because they are based on labeling and judgment. They tell you that there is something wrong with you as a person. When your goal is healing chronic disease, negative self-talk tells you that instead of getting better, you ought to BE a better person.

You wouldn’t allow your best friend to talk this way to herself. It’s time to become your own best friend and intervene in negative self-talk. All you have to do is learn to break the pattern and replace negativity with truly healing actions that support you in healing chronic disease. Remember that healing begins from within, and you have total control over the mindset that is either helping or hurting your chance at optimum health.

Begin by simply noticing during the day when you use negative self-talk. Write down what the circumstances were, what you said or thought to yourself that was negative, and how those thoughts made you feel. Then, pick one recurring negative thought and decide how you will turn it around into a healing action.

For example, if you have noticed that you think to yourself “I’m such a klutz,” use this thought as a cue to notice what you need. The next time you catch yourself thinking about being a klutz, stop and say, “What do I need right now?” Maybe it’s a rest break, some water to rehydrate you, or a kind word from a good friend. Then take that healing action.

We think of negative self-talk as “automatic thoughts,” but the truth is that you can break the negative cycle and turn the negative into a positive. Let your negative thoughts be a signal that it’s time for a wellness check-in to find what your body needs right now. Soon, every moment will become a healing moment on the path to healing chronic disease.

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