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Diabetic Neuropathy

What creates the nerve pain of diabetic neuropathy? 

Diabetics get nerve damage due to too much sugar in the blood.  The sugar hurts the nerve cell's outer sheath (the protective outer cover).

Peripheral nerve cells have three main parts: cell body, axons, and dendrites (or terminal).. (See diagram below)  

 

                                 

 

 

 

 


Nerve damage normally occurs when the outer sheathing or the myelin (protective covering) of nerve cells degenerate.  This is similar to an electrical wire that is covered with insulation, and the insulation is beginning to crumble.  Without insulation the unprotected wire will start short-circuiting.  

                                       

 

 

 

 

This short-circuiting will cause all the unpleasant and painful sensations that people who are suffering from neuropathy go through. 

Diabetics will suffer from this neuropathy  and it is a major complication of the disease.  It is the higher than normal sugar levels that creates the damage.  It is an acquired disease.

Neuropathy Symptoms:

The symptoms of diabetic neuropathy depend on the type of nerves -- motor, sensory, or autonomic -- that are damaged.  Some people may experience numbness, tingling, and pricking sensations, sensitivity to touch, or muscle weakness. It is the cause of numbness in the fingers and even left arm pain and tingling.

Others may suffer more extreme symptoms, including burning pain (especially at night), shooting pain, muscle wasting, paralysis, or organ or gland dysfunction.  Small fiber neuropathy affects the nerve endings in the fingers or toes.   When a motor nerve is affected, you get muscle weakness and wasting. 

The symptoms of nerve damage and thus what is referred to as diabetic neuropathy are often slight at first. In fact, some mild cases may go unnoticed for a long time. 

Numbness, pain, or tingling in the feet and ankles or legs may, after several years, lead to weakness in the muscles of the feet and burning feet. 

Diabetic neuropathy can flare up suddenly and affect specific nerves so that an affected individual will develop double vision or drooping eyelids, or weakness and atrophy of the thigh muscles. Nerve damage caused by diabetes generally occurs over a period of years and may lead to problems with the digestive tract and sexual organs, which can cause indigestion, diarrhea or constipation, dizziness, bladder infections, and impotence. 

The loss of sensation in the feet may increase the possibility for foot injuries to go unnoticed and develop into ulcers or lesions that become infected, not to mention having trouble with coordination. 

Treatments for Neuropathy Pain:

There are several treatments for neuropathy.   There are medications like Lyrica and Cymbalta that attempt to block the pain.  Cymbalta is actually an anti-depressant that very often is difficult to get off of once started.   For info on Cymbalta & Neuropathy

Rebuilder:  Combines a footbath with an electrical current.  Claims to open up nerve channels and stimulate circulation.  to the affected area.  

Alpha lipoic acid which as an anti-oxidant attempts to make sure that no further damage is done to the body.

Anodyne Therapy:  Infrared light to increase circulation and stimulate production of nitric acid.  It is supposed to relax the arteries and eliminate free radicals. Pads are put over the injured areas.  Pain is supposed to be relieved with increased circulation and more nitric oxide in the blood.   Can treat common injuries.

Neuropathy Treatments:  

Medications:  

Pros: There are several drug treatments for neuropathy. There are medications such as Lyrica and Cymbalta that are given cover up or block the pain. Lyrica, is an anti-seizure medication. It is used for neuropathy as it stops the nerves from talking to each other so you don't feel the pain. Cymbalta is a anti-depressant which is used because it lowers a person's awareness and thus their awareness of the pain. One drug occasionally used is Prednisone and also Elavil.  

Cons: You have to continue to take the drugs to get relief and drugs have side effects.  

Prednisone depletes the body of vital nutrients and there is a problem withdrawing from it (see Prednisone

Amitriptyline (Elavil) it lowers the awareness of the nerve damage but as with all medications, they have side effects that don't enhance your health.   

Additionally, Cymbalta as an anti-depressant can very often be difficult to get off with out side effects. For info on Cymbalta & Neuropathy  

Long term these drugs can cause more damage due to side effects and deficiencies it can create. 

For side effects of the different drugs go to www.drugs.com or www.rxlist.com   

If you are taking any mediation that has a side effect of neuropathy, you should talk to your doctor to see if there is an alternative medication. 

Rebuilder:  

Pros: Combines a footbath with an electrical current.  Claims to open up nerve channels and stimulate circulation to the affected area. It claims to  stimulate the nearby calf muscles to contract and relax, enhancing the local blood flow to bring fresh nutrients to the nerves and help remove accumulated toxins.  No information on how it would address neuroapthy in other areas of the body.

Cons: Cost. Inconclusive if this works for everyone or why electric current will "rebuild" nerves except for increasing circulation There are many anti-oxidants which will also increase circulation.. It also states it sends electric current up the foot through the sciatic nerve and down again so it addresses foot neuropathy only. 

Acupuncture:  

Pros: The ancient Chinese practice of acupuncture has been known to help with the symptoms of neuropathy.  There is apparently an ability to improve circulation with this method that would give similar relief.  There is also acupressure which works on the same principles as acupuncture.  For more information go to Acupuncture

Cons: Acupuncture sometimes does not help with neuropathy. You also have to continue to get treatments. 

Alpha lipoic acid: 

Pros: This is as an anti-oxidant which will help protect the nerves so no further damage is done to the body. It can help with the symptoms. In order to help it needs to be taken with Acetyl l-carnitine. There is evidence that they work together well in helping the body use nutrients to repair the nerves, but the vital B vitamins need to be taken with it. 

Cons:  None.  

Herbs:  

Pros: They will cover up the symptoms of neuropathy similar to drugs and can make you temporarily feel better, you must continue to take them. The body doesn't use them to build healthy nerves. 

Cons: There are problems with herbs. They can interact with any other medications that you are taking. They can have side effects. Herbs are similar to drugs in so far as (in therapeutic dosages as found in the herbs that you can buy) they make the body do what it wouldn't normally do. While you can use herbs in your salad and in tea without problems, when you take herbs in a supplement, they are extracts which are far stronger dosages. Herbs should be taken separately as if there is a problem, you can isolate what herb is causing the problem. The combination of herbs found in some supplements prohibit you from doing that. 

Remember, herbs are not vitamins. They are natural substances, but they aren't the vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids & amino acids that the body needs to function, create energy and to repair itself. 

Herbs can make your neuropathy feel better, but aren't used by the body to repair the nerves. Thus, you need to keep taking them to continue the relief. There are some herbs which shouldn't be taken more than a few months like Feverfew or Ashwagandha.

When taking any herbs, check with your pharmacist. Pharmacies have databases where they can check for interactions and side effects. 

Glutamine & B6: 

Pros: Although no scientific evidence, some people with chemo induced neuropathy have said they had some relief.  

Cons:  There is, however, some concern that it may stimulate tumor growth.  

Anodyne Therapy:  Infrared light to increase circulation and stimulate production of nitric acid.  It is supposed to relax the arteries and eliminate free radicals. Pads are put over the injured areas.  Pain is supposed to be relieved with increased circulation and more nitric oxide in the blood.   Can treat common injuries.

Con: Relieves the symptoms but needs to be continued for relief. 

Homeopathic Formula:  Homeopathy can give temporary neuropathic pain relief without side effects or interactions with drugs.  What is homeopathy.

Cons:  They relieve the symptoms but doesn't address the problem. 

Topical creams: There are many different creams available that will bring relief from neuropathy pain. They can be applied as needed. Capsaicin is a common ingredient. it is used to relieve pain for arthritis, muscle pain, joint pain, as well as nerve pain.  It can address the inflammation.

Cons: They relieve but you must continue to use it for relief. Doesn't work for everyone. 

Cold Laser Treatment or Low Level Laser Therapy: It will give relief from pain. It is non-thermal and won't burn the surrounding area. It is trying to increase cellular activity. The laser delivers electric pulses to the target area which delivers a jolt that matches the pulse at which the body perceives pain. It claims to create a reduction in pain by causing the production of natural pain killer endorphins. 

Cons:  Relief Only. 

None of the above treatments, will build healthy nerves.  You can cover up the symptoms and you can increase circulation and you can make a person feel less pain, etc., but you want to build healthy nerves. 

As Hippocrated said: "We need to shift our focus from treating disease to generating health..." Hippocrates (AMA"The Father of Medicine") 

We always recommend building health, and nerves are no different. 

Building Healthy Nerves:  

Pros: 
Healthy sensory nerves means that they are not painful. Healthy nerves means that they communicate and don't send wrong signals such as burning, hot and cold, tingling when there is no reason for it. Healthy motor nerves means that they relay messages from the brain to the muscle so that they move correctly.  Nerves need to be healthy to function properly. 

The body needs specific nutrients (vitamins) to be able to build healthy nerves. 

Cons: It doesn't give immediate or temporary relief, but it does address the actual problem and creates healthy nerves. 

(For temporary relief while building healthy nerves, go to Pain Relief Formula )

Building Healthy Nerves:  Find out what is needed to build healthy nerves 

 

 

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For help with Diabetes go to our Diabetes Page

 


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