Peripheral neuropathy, it’s causes and diagnosis have been covered so the question now is how do we take care of it? There have been advances in the treatment of diabetes but still approximately 60 to 70% of those with type 1 or type 2 diabetes will develop nerve damage. Prevention is the key to avoid this nerve damage. When the blood sugar is carefully under control, the nerve cells are bound to behave.
How do we prevent this condition other than keeping the blood sugar under control? Maintaining the blood sugar level within limits with insulin and diabetes medications can keep the nerve cells away from harm. In addition, a balanced diet that is rich in fiber along with exercise will help. A regular consultation with the doctor and a diabetes check-up every three months is advisable.
How is peripheral neuropathy treated? Although the nerves that have died cannot be restored, the right treatment will help ease the pain. The burning pain can be treated by the doctor with capsacin which is a topical ointment. If there is shooting pain or pins and needles, the doctor may prescribe antidepressants.
Stretching may help ease the distress when there is cramping or spasm. Wear well-fitted shoes and this means cowboy boots, high heels and others that constrict the muscles should be avoided. The doctor may advise taking ibuprofen or acetaminophen to relieve the pain.
If there is nerve damage in the stomach or what they call gastroparesis, often times, the doctor will prescribe metocloppramide because this helps empty the stomach. To help put a stop to urinary tract infection when there is nerve damage in the bladder, the doctor may prescribe bethanechol. This will also help in clearing the urine from the bladder.
If the peripheral neuropathy leads to erectile dysfunction (ED), a consultation with a diabetes specialist or a physician is the order of the day. He may prescribe Viagra or other options like the use of inflatable implants and vacuum erection devices. The significant other should be consulted before any treatment of ED.
Consult with a podiatrist or orthotist if there are symptoms of redness and swelling in the foot. While waiting for the foot to heal, the specialist may put a cast or splint to immobilize the foot. Protect the other foot with crutches or braces. Surgery may be an option for cases that are in advanced stages.
There are other things to do in order to cope with peripheral neuropathy.
* Do not smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol as they may make the nerve damage worse.
* Avoid using heating pads and electric blankets as you may not feel them and therefore burn yourself.
* Get the doctor to inspect your feet at every visit.
* Wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes.
* Examine the feet and toes everyday for you may overlook the injuries.
* Never walk barefoot even at home.
* Schedule bathroom breaks every three to four hours even though you do not feel the need to go if you have bladder neuropathy.
* Do stretching exercise and walk regularly to ease the discomfort.
* Eat a balanced diet with plenty of fiber.
Now that we know this condition can be managed through occupational or physical therapy or through some form of orthopedic intervention, it is important to remember that good nutrition plus exercise like tai chi can replace traditional medications. Knowing all these is not enough though. The onus is on you to follow the recommendations of the multidisciplinary team and monitor their effects on peripheral neuropathy.