Your cholesterol or blood pressure was elevated so you take multiple medications…
You work in a manufacturing environment…
You’ve been exposed to lead, mercury or thalium in your job…
You have a history of drug or alcohol abuse…
Any of these things can cause one of the most difficult types of peripheral neuropathy to diagnose –
If you have any of these problems with your feet:
Or if you suffer from
- Difficulty walking
- Shooting pain in your muscles
It is vitally important that you obtain an accurate diagnosis and start treatment as quickly as possible to try and prevent permanent nerve damage. This commonly includes extensive lab tests, electro-diagnostics like EMG/NCV, hair samples and maybe even tissue biopsy.
What Causes Toxic Neuropathy?
Toxic neuropathy is basically nerve damage caused by exposure to toxic substances. The two most common causes of toxic neuropathy are drug abuse and exposure to chemicals on the job. More and more though environmental sources such as mercury from heavy fish consumption for example must be considered. Any type of prolonged exposure to toxins in the environment can cause toxic neuropathy. Even prolonged exposure to some organic insecticides or certain self-administered supplements can cause toxic neuropathy. Some herbal medicines are particularly high in mercury and arsenic, both of which can cause peripheral neuropathy.
Why Can Toxic Neuropathy So Difficult to Diagnose?
Patients with toxic neuropathy often present with very subtle pain or mild weakness. Because initial symptoms are fairly mild, patients may “blow them off” and it’s then harder to pinpoint a diagnosis. When symptoms are more pronounced and painful, there may be a lag time between the exposure to the toxin and the onset of significant symptoms. The symptoms come on so gradually that it’s harder for the patient to give the doctor a clear picture of what they may have been exposed to.
The difficulty in diagnosing toxic neuropathy is one of the reasons that it is so important to consult a doctor with legitimate training. Do your homework here. With experience & expertise and so often a team approach, he or she is more likely to pick up on subtleties that will allow a faster diagnosis. Faster diagnosis means faster treatment and that means less chance for permanent nerve damage.
What is the Treatment for Toxic Neuropathy?
Our initial goal is always help make the most accurate diagnosis FIRST.
The next step is to devise a treatment plan. The first order of business will be to stop exposure to the suspected toxin(s). If the cause of your toxic neuropathy was environmental, we will work with you to formulate a plan to decrease or eliminate your exposure.
Then you can begin treatment but note these precautions:
- If you are already suffering nerve deficits that are affecting your ability to perform basic daily tasks due to loss of sensation, you will need to take safety precautions to avoid falls.
- Treatment is often in-office and home care simultaneously. Unless you do your part, good results will certainly be limited.
Remember, toxic neuropathy can develop even after short term exposure to toxic chemicals and some well known drugs. If you are suffering from any of the symptoms we’ve discussed and you know or suspect you’ve been exposed to chemicals or you have or have had a drug problem, your doctor immediately. Toxic neuropathy and chronic pain is often treatable but any kind of neuropathy is very unforgiving of delay and your nerve damage could be very dangerous.
For more information on diagnosis, treatment and coping with toxic neuropathy, get your Free E-Book and subscription to the Weekly Ezine “Beating Neuropathy” at http://neuropathydr.com