Peripheral neuropathy, that tingling, burning, or numb feeling in your extremities, can be distressing. Ranging from annoying and uncomfortable to painful and debilitating, many patients wonder if there is hope that the condition can be reversed.
The answer largely depends on the source of the damage and how long you’ve had the condition. Seeking treatment early before the nerves are severely damaged is always the best course. But regardless of where your neuropathy falls on the spectrum, it is always advisable to fully evaluate all treatment options that could bring you symptom relief or healing.
What Is Peripheral Neuropathy?
Neuropathy is temporary or permanent damage to any nerves outside of the brain or spinal cord. The damaged nerve sends corrupted signals to the brain, which can be interpreted as pain even if there is no physical cause.
The most common reaction is the sensation of pins and needles in the hands and feet, although it may only be present in one or the other. Sometimes it can be a burning, tingling, stabbing, or numb sensation. It can cause hypersensitivity that makes even the weight of your blanket uncomfortable, or you may not feel anything, meaning it could mask real injuries. You may also experience muscle weakness, cramping, or a loss of balance, increasing your risk of falling.
What causes Peripheral Neuropathy?
There are more than 1,000 causes of peripheral neuropathy, but for this article, here are the most common among them.
- Vitamin Deficiency
- Inflammatory Disease
- Medicine Side-Effect
- Chemotherapy Side-Effect
- Toxin Exposure
- Endocrine Disorder
Can Peripheral Neuropathy Be Cured?
Nerves, like many cells in the body, can heal over time and with the right conditions. However, nerves heal more slowly than most body cells. Nerves rarely get back to 100% functionality once they have been damaged, but several types of neuropathy can be reversed if the underlying cause is fixed.
Treatment success depends on how quickly the underlying cause is corrected, how badly the nerves are damaged, and how dedicated the person is to follow the advice of their treatment team.
Conditions That May Be Reversible
Your doctor can help to identify any vitamin or mineral deficiencies you may be experiencing. As the absence of certain essential nutrients can damage nerves, a steady supply of the missing nutrient can correct the problem, assuming the damage is caught early.
Maintaining healthy blood glucose levels can reverse diabetic nerve pain. Focus your diet on whole, fiber-rich foods rather than processed food products. Monitor your glucose regularly with either an implanted monitor or a stick test. And exercise regularly to improve circulation to the nerve and surrounding tissues.
Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, and Rheumatoid Arthritis are some inflammatory diseases caused by an overactive immune system. The immune system thinks there is a threat and attacks otherwise normal, healthy tissues. The tissues become inflamed. Reducing the amount of inflammation in your body through dietary changes or prescribed medications can help manage the symptoms. However, be cautious when introducing new medications into your routine, and be sure you understand all the potential side effects.
There may be unintended side effects with most medications. If neuropathy develops after starting a new drug, talk to your doctor immediately. There may be another that you will tolerate better without causing nerve damage. If not, it’s a choice of which is worse, the medical side effects, or the condition the medicine treats.
Cancer is one of those conditions that may be bad enough that peripheral neuropathy is an acceptable side effect. Your doctor should review the known side effects of treatment with you before you start.
If an alcoholic stops drinking soon enough, then the body can heal part or all of the damage done to the nerves. Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are available worldwide. You can participate at a local meeting or use online resources to help break the cycle of addiction.
Conditions That Aren’t Generally Reversible
Medical discoveries happen every year. There is hope, but at present, some conditions are harder to reverse.
Genetics– Our genetic code is the ultimate lottery. We inherit both good and bad characteristics from our ancestors. If the genetic grab-bag of traits gives you peripheral neuropathy, try mitigating the symptoms. There are a variety of options out there, just take a look to find what might be the right fit for you.
Trauma– Nerves damaged by physical force may regenerate depending on the extent of the injury. Give the injury all the TLC your doctor prescribes, and you’ll get the best possible outcome. Try implementing an anti-inflammatory diet while you are healing to create the optimal environment for recovery.
Surgery– Cut nerves may never heal, but symptoms can lessen with time. Exercise proper wound care, follow the doctor’s instructions on rehabilitating the affected body part, and don’t return to normal daily activities too soon.
How Do I Mitigate Symptoms?
Check out our article on lifestyle changes that will lessen neuropathic symptoms. We also suggest you follow the doctor’s diet, exercise, and treatment instructions exactly as you are directed.
Explore Treatment Options Sooner, Not Later
Peripheral neuropathy can be challenging to live with. Don’t wait if you experience neuropathy symptoms. Seek help immediately. In almost every case, the earlier you identify the underlying cause of your neuropathy and start to address it, the better the outcome.
DISCLAIMER: THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE
The information, including but not limited to texts, graphics, images, and other material contained in this article, are for informational purposes only. None of the material mentioned is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment before undertaking a new care regimen. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article.