Pain, tingling, loss of sensation (numbness), and muscle weakness are hallmark symptoms of peripheral neuropathy, an umbrella medical term that covers any condition that damages the nerves outside your brain and spinal cord (central nervous system).
While there are over 100 types of peripheral neuropathy, each with its own distinct set of causes, symptoms, treatment options, and prognosis, we’d like to focus on the most common form of the condition: diabetic neuropathy.
This November, in recognition of Diabetes Awareness Month, board-certified interventional pain management expert Dr. Okezie N. Okezie and our team at Interventional Sports and Pain Management Associates discuss the ins and outs of diabetic peripheral neuropathy, including effective management strategies and pain relief options.
Peripheral neuropathy is a general term used to describe damage that affects any part of your peripheral nervous system (PNS), or the vast messaging network that transmits vital information from your central nervous system (CNS) to your body, and vice versa.
Peripheral neuropathy symptoms depend on the type of nerve that’s been damaged. More than one type of peripheral nerve is often involved with diabetic neuropathy:
When peripheral nerves are systematically and progressively damaged by uncontrolled high blood sugar levels, they can’t transmit clear, complete messages to and from your CNS.
Instead, they may send improper signals (like static on a telephone line), they might send distorted signals (like a wavy television picture), or they could stop sending signals altogether (like a severed wire).
About half of people with diabetes have some degree of peripheral nerve damage. For many people, this irreversible condition starts as an irritating tingling sensation and/or loss of feeling in the feet and legs; without intervention, it may eventually give rise to burning lower extremity pain or total numbness.
Depending on the type, location, and extent of the nerve damage that’s involved, peripheral neuropathy symptoms may be mild and intermittent or severe and continuous. Damage to motor nerves can affect your reflexes and movement, while sensory nerve damage can affect the sensations you feel as well as your coordination and sense of balance.
Nerve damage can’t be healed or repaired — it’s a permanent condition. But even though diabetic peripheral neuropathy can’t be cured or reversed, treatment is still crucial. Why? Timely medical intervention can:
Diabetic neuropathy requires a comprehensive treatment approach that touches on all areas of concern, starting with disease control: Effective diabetes management and stable blood sugar levels are key to stopping further peripheral nerve damage. Other components of care include:
Most cases of peripheral neuropathy respond well to healthy lifestyle changes. You can feel your best and keep your neuropathy symptoms in check by:
Taking part in physical therapy or occupational therapy — and using mechanical aids like braces and orthopedic shoes — can also help reduce nerve pain and improve your mobility.
In some cases, over-the-counter pain relievers are sufficient for relieving neuropathic pain. Other times, prescription-strength medicines are necessary.
Prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antidepressants, and topical medicated lotions for nerve pain are just a few of the many medications commonly prescribed for pain related to peripheral neuropathy.
When lifestyle changes and medication don’t offer sufficient pain relief, it may be time to consider next-level interventional pain care. We offer two effective pain relief procedures for peripheral neuropathy:
This procedure uses an injection of local anesthetic agents around the peripheral nerve branches to stop pain signals from reaching your brain. Peripheral nerve blocks may provide relief that lasts anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.
A spinal cord stimulator is a bit like a pacemaker device for diabetic neuropathy pain. Designed to deliver effective relief for a wide range of chronic pain conditions, spinal cord stimulation can often ease pain that hasn’t responded to other forms of treatment.
This advanced device consists of a small pulse generator that’s implanted under your skin, and two small wire leads that are situated near specific nerves on your spine. These work together to block peripheral nerve pain signals to your brain.
If you need relief from diabetic neuropathy — or any other type of neuropathic pain — we can help. Call your nearest Interventional Sports and Pain Management Associates office in Humble or Baytown, Texas today, or click online to schedule a visit with Dr. Okezie anytime.