Peripheral Neuropathy from Chemotherapy: What Can You Do?

Chemotherapy induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) can severely impact your quality of life.

Living with chemotherapy induced peripheral neuropathy, also known as CIPN, can be a significant quality of life issue. Nerve damage from chemo drugs can lead to tingling, pain, numbness, and loss of agility or balance. You might be more sensitive to extreme differences of temperature. You might also be bothered by certain kinds of pressure on the affected area.

You might even be unable to do simple tasks like writing a grocery list or buttoning up a shirt.

What can you do about peripheral neuropathy that stems from chemotherapy? Your oncologist or other medical team members may be able to prescribe medications to aid with neuropathy or even adjust your chemo dose in an effort to reduce side effects. There are also many things you can do in your everyday routine to minimize these effects.

Get to know your symptoms. Identify what makes your neuropathy symptoms worse, and avoid those things whenever possible. For example, if ill-fitting shoes seem to trigger neuropathic pain in your feet, make comfortable shoes a priority.

Avoid drinking alcohol, which can intensify peripheral neuropathy symptoms.

For foot neuropathy, stay off your feet as much as possible. Take good care of your feet and inspect them every day for blisters and other injuries that could turn into infection.

If neuropathy symptoms are in your hands, be sure to keep your hands protected with gloves when washing dishes or doing repair work.

But there is one more thing, perhaps the most important thing you can do to reduce pain and discomfort from chemo induced peripheral neuropathy: Do your own research and insist that your doctors be at least as well-read as you. Neuropathy treatment is a joint effort between you and your medical team.

For more information about dealing with chemo induced neuropathy, check out our neuropathy owners manual, I Beat Neuropathy!

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Neuropathy Patients Must Be Powerful Self Advocates

As a neuropathy patient, you need to be the most powerful member of your medical team. Here’s how to do it.

Your neuropathy treatment team is well trained and highly educated. But they are not the true experts on your neuropathy.

The only real expert on YOUR neuropathy is you.

You’re the one who is there 24/7 experiencing neuropathic pain and physical limitations. You live in your body, and you know what’s normal for you.

The only way to get effective neuropathy care is to be a powerful self advocate. You are the most important member of your treatment team. They simply can’t get the job done without your vital input!

What does this mean?

Here is how you can advocate for yourself in your neuropathy treatment.

  1. Provide detailed, up to date information about your symptoms. Keep a daily log so that you can track frequency and severity. Be honest and don’t leave anything out.
  2. Tell your doctor about all medications and supplements you are taking, including vitamins and herbs, as well as over the counter medications such as ibuprofen or allergy medications.
  3. Be honest about your history and current use of alcohol, tobacco products, caffeine, and other drugs that can affect your symptoms and interact with prescription medications.
  4. Read what is out there about neuropathy treatment. Ask questions about whether the techniques you’ve read about are appropriate for your care.
  5. Share your worries and concerns. If the doctor seems to brush them off, state them again and make sure he or she understands what you mean. Ask WHY that particular symptom or occurrence is not significant in your doctor’s eyes.
  6. Write down everything that your doctor says during the visit. If that is difficult for you, bring a tape recorder or a family member / friend who can take notes.
  7. If you still have unanswered questions at the end of your visit, ask the doctor for more time or request another professional (such as a nurse practitioner) to come in and talk more with you.

If you feel that your current medical team is not addressing your needs, look for a doctor in your area who has specific training in neuropathy issues. Click here for a list of NeuropathyDR™ specialists.

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Just Diagnosed? The Next Step After Your Neuropathy Diagnosis

A Neuropathy Diagnosis Can Be Frightening and Confusing. Here’s What To Do Next.

Finding out about your neuropathy diagnosis can be a confusing and even frightening time. You may be feeling overwhelmed with information and choices. Or you may be uncertain whether you are correctly understanding what your doctor has said.

Often, newly diagnosed neuropathy patients have been living with increasingly painful symptoms for a while. It may be stunning to discover that nerve damage is responsible for those symptoms.

You may also be adjusting to the diagnosis or treatment of a systemic condition that has led to neuropathy symptoms, such as lupus, cancer, or diabetes.

It’s a lot to get used to, and it may be hard to know what you should do next.

Let me share some of the most basic steps that should happen right after a neuropathy diagnosis.

The immediate step is to address any acute symptom flare-ups that may be happening. That may mean being hospitalized to get control of an episode related to an autoimmune disease or diabetic crisis. Or it may mean seeking appropriate medication to reduce inflammation or pain.

When this immediate crisis has settled, the next step for you is to address your daily health habits that can positively or negative affect the long-term outcome of your neuropathy diagnosis. If you are more than 20 pounds overweight, work with your doctor on a plan to drop those extra pounds in a safe way. Reduce or remove sugar and processed foods from your diet. Stop smoking as quickly as possible.

You can also take other steps such as filtering the water in your home, using only “green” cleaning agents, and building moderate exercise into your daily routine.

Perhaps the most important step is to identify a trained neuropathy doctor in your area who can provide the most up-to-date and comprehensive treatment plan for your neuropathy diagnosis. Click here to find a NeuropathyDR® specialist near you.

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Neuropathy Foot Care

Neuropathy Foot Care is Essential for Maintaining Your Health

It’s true that we should all probably be wearing more comfortable shoes. Our culture tends to favor types of shoes that are more suited for fashion than comfort—high heels or stiff dress shoes, pull-on flats with no arch support, or backless flip-flops.

In most people, these kinds of shoes can sometimes cause problems ranging from back pain to painful calluses.

But if you have neuropathy, footwear choices become much more than a fashion statement. Neuropathy foot comfort and health can play a big role in overall wellness and maintaining good health overall.

I would say that in particular, for people with diabetic neuropathy, foot self care is one of the most important aspects of self care along with diet to maintain blood sugar.

Anyone with peripheral neuropathy may also experience other debilitating foot-related issues, such as plantar fasciitis.

So, what are the basics of neuropathy foot care?

Comfortable shoes are the first step. This begins with having your feet measured at a shoe store to make sure you are buying the right size shoes for your feet. It’s common for the shape and/or size of feet to change slightly with age. For people with peripheral neuropathy, foot changes can be due to swelling or changes in the muscles.

Be sure to measure both feet! Many people have feet that are slightly different sizes, and you’ll need to buy shoes according to the size of your larger foot.

Before you buy new footwear, consult with your neuropathy clinician about the right kind of shoes for neuropathy foot care. He or she may recommend diabetic footwear, which can hold custom inserts.

Even if your doctor tells you that you can wear regular shoes, I would strongly urge you to stay away from problematic shoes (from high heels to flip-flops) and choose to wear shock-absorbing running shoes the majority of the time.

Proper neuropathy foot care is just one of the aspects of good health for people with neuropathy. Learn more by reading our neuropathy owners manual, I Beat Neuropathy!

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Neuropathic Pain and Vitamin C

Do You Need Vitamin C Supplementation to Help Treat Your Neuropathic Pain?

Vitamin C is most famous for its role in reducing the time it takes to recover from a cold or other infections. This key nutrient boosts the immune system through its role in cell repair and replication of new cells.

But there’s more to it than that. Vitamin C is important for many body systems. For example, skin and ligament tissues are bound together by collagen, and vitamin C is needed in order for tissue repair to occur. This vitamin also helps the body to process toxins.

You might think of vitamin C as being a fairly innocuous substance. In fact, you might assume that more is better when it comes to vitamin C and treating neuropathic pain.

The fact is, it may not be a good idea for anyone with neuropathic pain to take more than 2,000 mg daily, or to take large amounts of vitamin C in a short period of time. As with any new supplement, it’s important to talk with your doctor or medical treatment team about how to best include vitamin C in your treatment regimen.

And here’s the best news… if you are faithfully following the NeuropathyDR® diet to combat neuropathic pain, it’s highly unlikely that you would be vitamin C deficient. You’ll be eating a lot of fresh vegetables and fruits that tend to contain a high amount of vitamin C. If this is the case, you may not even need to supplement vitamin C to reach optimum levels.

Again, I have to emphasize the vital importance of combining self-care and lifestyle changes alongside any treatments recommended by your neuropathic pain medical team.

Are you treating your neuropathic pain in collaboration with a trained expert in the NeuropathyDR® method? Find an expert near you.

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Diabetic Neuropathy: Advice for the Newly Diagnosed

If You Have Just Been Diagnosed with Diabetic Neuropathy, It’s Important to Seek Expert Treatment Right Away. Here’s Why.

In short, the term “diabetic neuropathy” refers to peripheral neuropathy symptoms in people who have the chronic illness known as diabetes. Diabetic neuropathy happens when your blood sugar becomes elevated and there is not enough blood flowing to your body’s nerve centers.

This leads to neuropathic pain symptoms, such as numbness, insensitivity to hot or cold, weakness or cramping of muscles, or burning/tingling in extremities. You may also experience problems with bladder control, nausea, or diarrhea.

Unfortunately, diabetic neuropathy has severe long-term health consequences. The longer you postpone treatment, the higher the chance of irreversible nerve damage and lifelong symptoms that hinder your quality of life.

On the other hand, seeking immediate help from a trained neuropathy specialist is likely to allow you to reduce your neuropathy symptoms right away and prevent serious health problems.

Your neuropathy treatment specialist will collaborate with you to create a treatment plan. The immediate focus will be getting your diabetes in control to avoid additional nerve damage.

Along with any prescribed medications to maintain blood sugar levels, you will be asked to follow a neuropathy diet for controlling diabetes. Typically, this diet eliminates processed foods and refined sugars while focusing on lean proteins, fiber, and lots of fresh vegetables.

Your diabetic neuropathy treatment plan may also include therapies to reduce your neuropathic pain symptoms and aid your nervous system in self-repair. Your neuropathy treatment specialist may recommend specific types of manual therapies, such as chiropractic or physical therapy, or certain technologies like laser light therapy or nerve stimulation devices.

A neuropathy treatment plan could include the addition of oral or topical nutrients to aid in healing. Many neuropathy treatment specialists will recommend a custom blend of nutrients for your specific health challenges.

To find a diabetic neuropathy treatment specialist in your area, click here.

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Peripheral Neuropathy and Lyme Disease

Could Your Peripheral Neuropathy Symptoms Be Related to Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is a significant problem in some areas of the U.S., especially those with a lot of densely wooded areas. Unfortunately, many doctors these days are not up to date on their knowledge of this disease enough to accurately diagnose it.

In part, that’s because Lyme disease can be complicated in how it presents itself. Sometimes it can cause arthritis or a variety of neuropathic pain symptoms. It’s so important to be able to distinguish between peripheral neuropathy and Lyme disease.

Patients with Lyme disease leading to neurological damage can sometimes experience symptoms like burning, numbness, or tingling. Lyme disease can even lead to a type of nerve paralysis in the face called Bell’s palsy.

We don’t know exactly why Lyme disease can cause these types of peripheral neuropathy symptoms. But what is known about Lyme disease based on more recent case histories is that it can be chronic. A typical dosage of a month’s worth of antibiotics may not be enough to prevent or reduce neurological symptoms from occurring.

One of the classically recognizable symptoms of Lyme disease is a bulls-eye shaped rash stemming from the site of a tick bite.

But, according to Columbia University Medical Center, about 18 percent of Lyme disease cases don’t feature the classic symptoms. If you don’t have the textbook symptoms of Lyme disease, including a bulls-eye rash and a known tick bite, you may not be given an accurate diagnosis. Sometimes Lyme disease simply mimics the flu, with fatigue and fever along with headache.

An early accurate diagnosis of Lyme disease is vital in order to prevent the development of peripheral neuropathy symptoms and/or symptoms of arthritis.

As always, if you are having peripheral neuropathy symptoms, I urge you to seek an experienced and highly trained neuropathy clinician who can make a differential diagnosis and help you reduce symptoms as quickly as possible. Click here to locate a NeuropathyDR® clinician near you.

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Neuropathy Treatment Decisions: Should You Take Medications for Neuropathy?

The Most Comprehensive and Effective Neuropathy Treatment Approach Goes Beyond Medicating Symptoms and Treats the Root Cause.

There is so much more to effective neuropathy treatment than masking symptoms with medications.

Unfortunately, you would hardly know that’s the case, given how the majority of doctors still approach neuropathy treatment. The truth is that relying on the expertise of a doctor who isn’t specifically trained in neuropathy treatment could end up making your neuropathy symptoms worse, not better.

That’s because so many of the drugs that doctors tend to prescribe for neuropathy symptoms like tingling, numbness, and nerve pain have side effects, some of which will intensify over time.

This “one drug fits all” approach often stems from a lack of understanding about the root cause of neuropathy symptoms.

So-called idiopathic neuropathy, for which there is no known cause, may actually be developed over time due to metabolic syndrome—formerly known as pre-diabetes—a condition that will not be addressed at all by traditional symptom-focused drug therapies for neuropathy.

Or worse, if a doctor ignores the neuropathy and attempts to treat metabolic syndrome using medications for lowering cholesterol or blood pressure, your neuropathy symptoms are likely to get worse in reaction to these drugs.

The most effective approach to neuropathy treatment is a multi-modal approach that begins with substantial lifestyle changes and complementary therapies to support your body’s own natural healing process. Work with a trained neuropathy expert on a treatment plan that includes safe weight loss, a healthy neuropathy diet with no sugars or processed foods, and regular moderate exercise.

When you take the wheel of your own neuropathy treatment plan and consult with an expert trained in the best that neuropathy treatment has to offer, your quality of life will improve for the better.

There is a place for prescription medications. But I truly believe that a comprehensive neuropathy treatment approach that goes beyond drugs and puts YOU in the driver’s seat is the best way to begin healing from neuropathic pain.

Click here to find a neuropathy treatment expert near you.

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Your Neuropathy Diet: The Hard Truth About Dairy

You Won’t Hear This Advice From Many Doctors, But This One Factor Can Change the Effectiveness of Your Neuropathy Diet.

The consumption of dairy products has always been a highly charged topic in nutrition. On the one hand, there is a sizable lobby advocating for the U.S. dairy industry. On the other hand, there is overwhelming scientific evidence that regular consumption of dairy products is a pretty bad idea for human beings.

In short, if you are wrestling with whether to include milk and other dairy products in your neuropathy diet, any contemplation of this question leads to a straightforward conclusion.

More than half of the human population has trouble digesting milk, leading to digestion problems, allergic reactions, and eventually elevated levels of “bad fats” in your body. What’s worse, there is a hormonal growth factor contained in most dairy products that is known to instigate several different types of cancer, including prostate and breast cancer. One specific kind of milk sugar called galactose is linked to ovarian cancer.

And the regular consumption of dairy is additionally linked to the likelihood of developing type 1 diabetes, which is a major risk factor for neuropathic pain.

All of this means that a neuropathy diet that eliminates dairy (as well as gluten) is one of the most effective ways to reduce inflammation and pain associated with neuropathy and chronic pain.

It’s best to make a gradual shift in your diet so that the changes you instill can be permanent. There are many dairy alternatives out there, including products made from coconut, rice, and almonds. Just watch out for any added sugar or thickening agents like carrageenan.

As always, I urge you to become your own best health advocate. Do your research and seek out a doctor who has the background to prescribe an effective neuropathy diet.

Need to find a neuropathy doctor near you?

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The Connection Between Metabolic Syndrome and Diabetic Neuropathy

What Do You Need to Know About Diabetic Neuropathy and Metabolic Syndrome?

Years ago, we called it pre-diabetes. Lately, the common term is Syndrome X. No matter what name we give it, metabolic syndrome is a potentially devastating diagnosis.

I would go so far as to say that metabolic syndrome is the number one most dangerous medical condition challenging our society today.

That’s because so many people start to take care of themselves in terms of diet, exercise, and other self care only AFTER they have been diagnosed with diabetes or diabetic neuropathy. And by then, for so many of those people, it’s almost too late to matter.

Metabolic syndrome lies hidden for years, causing damage to multiple major body systems. At our clinics, we see so many patients with diabetic neuropathy and chronic pain related to metabolic syndrome.

Typically, metabolic syndrome tends to show up as a collection of subtle symptoms many years before a diabetes diagnosis. People with metabolic syndrome will notice a weight increase and thickening of the waist, along with small changes in their blood sugar levels and blood pressure.

The first thing you can do to protect yourself from the ravages of metabolic syndrome is to accept that a 20+ pound weight gain and spreading waistline is not a normal part of aging, and in fact can lead to very dangerous health complications. Being overweight is a risk factor for peripheral neuropathy in addition to other conditions, like heart disease.

Your next line of defense is to begin working with a medical specialist who is well trained in diagnosing metabolic syndrome, diabetic neuropathy, and other disorders. Remember that only you can be an effective health advocate for yourself.

Finally, ask your doctor about lifestyle changes that can have a significant positive impact on your health related to metabolic syndrome and diabetic neuropathy.

Get your copy of our neuropathy owners manual, I Beat Neuropathy!

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