Peripheral Neuropathy and Your Quality of Life

Peripheral Neuropathy and Your Quality of Life

There are things you can do to lessen the physical (and emotional) effects of peripheral neuropathy and help you function as normally as possible!

If you’re suffering from peripheral neuropathy, you know how much it affects your life.

Every single day…

Senior Couple Sitting In ParkEven the simplest tasks can be difficult if not impossible…

To anyone unfamiliar with peripheral neuropathy and its symptoms, they might just think “your nerves hurt a little…”

But at a peripheral neuropathy sufferer, you know better…

Peripheral neuropathy not only affects your health, it can wreck your quality of life.

How Do You Define Quality of Life?

Generally speaking, Quality of Life is a term used to measure a person’s overall well-being. In medical terms, it usually means how well a patient has adapted to a medical condition.  It measures[1]:

  • Your physical and material well being
  • Your social relationships – how you interact with others
  • Your social activities
  • Your personal fulfillment – your career, any creative outlets you may have, how involved you are with other interests)
  • Your recreational activities – your hobbies, sports, etc.
  • Your actual health – what your health is really like and how healthy you believe you are

How do you feel about these aspects of your life?  Your attitude and approach to your illness, both your neuropathy and the underlying cause of your neuropathy (i.e., diabetes, HIV/AIDS, lupus, etc.) can make a huge difference in how well you adapt to your neuropathy symptoms.

Neuropathy Symptoms Aren’t Just Physical

The pain of peripheral neuropathy falls into the category of what is considered chronic pain.  It usually doesn’t just come and go.  You can’t just pop a couple of aspirin and forget about it.  It’s pain with its root cause in nerve damage.

The nerves that actually register pain are the actual cause of the pain.  When you’re in that kind of pain on a consistent basis, it affects you in many different ways[2]:

  • You become depressed and/or anxious
  • Your productivity and interest at work is disrupted
  • You can’t sleep
  • It’s difficult for you to get out and interact with other people so you feel isolated
  • You sometimes don’t understand why you’re not getting better

What You Can Do To Improve Your Quality of Life

You may feel like your situation is hopeless, especially if you’ve become mired in depression.

But it isn’t.

There are things you can do to lessen the physical (and emotional) effects of peripheral neuropathy and help you function as normally as possible:

  • Pay special attention to caring for your feet.  Inspect them daily for cuts, pressure spots, blisters or calluses (use a mirror to look at the bottom of your feet). The minute you notice anything out of the ordinary, call your doctor or your local NeuropathyDR® clinician for help.  Never go barefoot – anywhere.
  • Treat yourself to a good foot massage to improve your circulation and reduce pain.  Check with your insurance company – if massage is actually prescribed by your doctor, they may cover some of the cost.
  • Only wear shoes that are padded, supportive and comfortable and never wear tight socks.
  • If you smoke, quit.  Nicotine decreases circulation and if you’re a peripheral neuropathy patient, you can’t risk that.
  • Cut back on your caffeine intake.  Several studies have found that caffeine may actually make neuropathy pain worse.
  • If you sit at a desk, never cross your knees or lean on your elbows.  The pressure will only make your nerve damage worse.
  • Be really careful when using hot water.  Your peripheral neuropathy may affect the way you register changes in temperature and it’s really easy for you to burn yourself and not even realize it.
  • Use a “bed cradle” to keep your sheets away from your feet if you experience pain when trying to sleep.  That will help you rest.
  • Try to be as active as possible.  Moderate exercise is great for circulation and it can work wonders for your emotional and mental health.
  • Make your home as injury proof as possible – install bath assists and/or hand rails and never leave anything on the floor that you can trip over.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet.  If you don’t know what you should and shouldn’t eat, talk to your NeuropathyDR® clinician about a personalized diet plan to maintain proper weight and give your body what it needs to heal.
  • Try to get out as often as possible to socialize with others.

We hope this information helps you to better manage your peripheral neuropathy symptoms.  Take a look at the list above and see how many of these things you’re already doing to help yourself. Then talk to your local NeuropathyDR® clinician about help with adding the others to your daily life.

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Exercising Caution With Autonomic Neuropathy

Exercising Caution With Autonomic Neuropathy

If you’ve been diagnosed with autonomic neuropathy[1], you know you’re at risk for some serious medical issues.

Exercise can help control the symptoms of your underlying illness and by doing that, you can help lessen the symptoms of your autonomic neuropathy.

Autonomic neuropathy (i.e., nerve damage to the autonomic nervous system) can affect every system in the body, especially:

  • Cardiovascular – your heart, blood pressure and circulation
  • Respiratory
  • Gastrointestinal – your digestion, ability to ability to empty your bowels
  • Genitourinary – erectile dysfunction and loss of bladder control

While you’re dealing some or all of these issues, exercise may not be on your radar.

But it should be.

Exercise can help control the symptoms of your underlying illness (whatever caused your autonomic neuropathy) and by doing that, you can help lessen the symptoms of your autonomic neuropathy.

But a word of caution is in order here.

The very nature of your autonomic neuropathy can affect the systems that are most sensitive to the effects of exercise.  Any exercise program you begin should be designed and monitored by a medical professional well versed in the effects of autonomic neuropathy, like your NeuropathyDR® clinician.

Use Vs. Disuse

When you’re thinking about starting an exercise program[2] and you’re thinking about how dangerous it can be, you also need to consider the effects of not starting an exercise program.  The effects of not exercising are called “disuse syndrome”.  If your level of activity seriously out of synch with your level of inactivity, you can develop:

  • Decreased physical work capacity
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Negative nitrogen and protein balance
  • Cardiovascular deconditioning
  • Pulmonary restrictions
  • Depression

The effects of any of these symptoms of disuse syndrome in combination with your autonomic neuropathy symptoms can make a bad situation even worse.

What You Need To Think About Before You Start Exercising

Think about what happens to your body when you exercise.

Your heart rate increases, your breathing becomes labored, you sweat.

Every single one of those results is controlled by the autonomic nervous system.  Autonomic neuropathy can seriously impact how your body responds to the stimulus of exercise.  And your body may not react as it should.

  • Heart rate – If your autonomic neuropathy affects your cardiovascular system, you need to make sure that your exercise program is designed and monitored by your NeuropathyDR® clinician. Your autonomic neuropathy can lead to abnormal heart rate, inability to properly regulate blood pressure and redistribution of blood flow.  Your cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy may cause you to have a higher resting rate and lower maximal heart rates during exercise.
  • Blood pressure – Blood pressure response with posture change and during exercise is abnormal in patients with cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy.  Postural hypotension, defined as a drop in blood pressure may be seen.  This can mean that the blood pressure doesn’t react normally during exercise.  Symptoms are similar to hypoglycemia and may be mistaken for a drop in blood glucose even though it’s actually a drop in blood pressure.  Patients should be alerted to the potential confusion in these symptoms and instructed to check blood glucose before treating for hypoglycemia.
  • Sweating and Disruption of Blood Flow – Autonomic neuropathy may reduce or even eliminate your ability to sweat.  The loss of sweating, especially in your feet, can cause dry, brittle skin on the feet and you can develop skin ulcers.  It can also make it more difficult for your body to respond to cold and heat. You need to make sure that you’re taking proper care of your feet before and during any exercise program.  Make sure your shoes fit properly and examine your feet regularly to make sure you don’t have any sores, cracks or ulcers.

Autonomic neuropathy can have a serious effect on the very systems in the body that are directly affected by exercise.  Make sure you talk to your local NeuropathyDR® clinician before you start an exercise program and let them monitor your progress.

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

Cholesterol Medication and Peripheral Neuropathy

Cholesterol Medication and Peripheral Neuropathy

Lipitor…

Once you know what caused the problem, your NeuropathyDR® clinician will sit down with you and formulate a plan.

Zocor…

Crestor…

If you own a television, you’ve probably seen at least one commercial for these popular cholesterol lowering medications.

If your cholesterol is high your doctor has probably prescribed one of them.

These drugs belong to a group of medications called statins and while they’re very effective in lowering your cholesterol levels, they have a serious side effect.

Patients taking statins are 14 times more likely to develop peripheral neuropathy than people not taking statins.[1]

If you’re taking statins and you have any of these problems with your feet:

  • Burning pain
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Prickling sensation

Or if you suffer from

  • Weakness
  • Difficulty walking
  • Shooting pain in your muscles

You could be suffering from statin neuropathy.  You need to see a health care provider very familiar with the diagnosis and treatment of peripheral neuropathy in all its forms, preferably a NeuropathyDR® clinician.

It is vitally important that you obtain a diagnosis and start treatment as quickly as possible to prevent permanent nerve damage.

What Causes Statin Neuropathy?

Statin neuropathy is nerve damage caused by exposure to cholesterol lowering medication.  By lowering cholesterol, statins also affect the cholesterol rich membranes that surround the nerves.   Prolonged exposure to statins just makes your peripheral neuropathy worse.

Why Is Statin Neuropathy So Difficult to Diagnose?

Patients with statin neuropathy often present with very subtle pain or mild weakness.  Because initial symptoms are fairly mild, it’s harder to pinpoint a diagnosis.  Many patients with statin neuropathy write off their early symptoms to being tired or just getting older.  The symptoms come on so gradually that it’s harder for the patient to give the doctor a clear picture of exactly when they started.

The difficulty in diagnosing statin neuropathy is one of the reasons that it is so important to consult a healthcare provider who specializes in treating neuropathy, like a NeuropathyDR®.  Because this is your NeuropathyDR® clinician’s field of expertise, 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 Statin Neuropathy?

Your NeuropathyDR® clinician’s initial goal will be to confirm the diagnosis and then determine that what you have is statin neuropathy and not neuropathy caused by some other underlying illness.  Once you know what caused the problem, your NeuropathyDR® clinician will sit down with you and formulate a plan to take you off your statin medications, at least for awhile to see if your symptoms improve.[2]

The next step is to begin treatment.  Your NeuropathyDR® clinician will

  • Advise you to take over-the-counter pain medication unless your symptoms are severe enough to warrant prescription pain medication.
  • 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.
  • Treat you with nerve stimulation and manual manipulation of your skeletal system to get your body back into alignment and alleviate your nerve pain.

Remember, statin neuropathy can develop even after short term exposure to statins.  If you are suffering from any of the symptoms we’ve discussed, contact your local NeuropathyDR® clinician immediately.  Statin neuropathy is treatable but any kind of neuropathy is very unforgiving of delay and your nerve damage could be permanent.

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