Chemotherapy has a side effect of nerve damage.
What is CIPN?
How to get relief
Cancer treatment drugs are called chemotherapy. Chemotherapy drugs are toxic chemicals (poisons) that attack fast growing cells (rapidly dividing cells). The theory behind using these toxins is that it will destroy the fast growing cancer cells before it does too much damage to normal cells. This creates nerve damage.
Hair is a quickly dividing, fast growing cell and this is the reason that hair loss is a common side effect of chemotherapy.
Bone marrow produces fast growing cells. Normally, when blood cells wear out in the body, they are replaced by new ones from the bone marrow. When the chemotherapy drugs damage these fast-growing cells, it can cause a low blood count, which can result in other side effects such as fatigue, headaches, and chills. It is sometimes even necessary to do a blood transfusion.
Nerve damage from chemotherapy drugs
Chemotherapy is hardest on the nervous system due to the fact that nerve cells are more sensitive than other cells.
The nervous system transmits information between the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and the rest of the body. It is designed to transmit feeling such as touch and temperature. It delivers messages from sight; it delivers messages to the muscles to get them to move.
Because nerve cells are more sensitive to these toxins then other cells, they are often affected and can be damaged easily. This may also be the reason for cognitive problems following chemotherapy, also known as “chemo fog” or “chemo-brain”.
After exposure to the chemotherapy drugs, the cells that responsible for producing myelin, the fatty substance that helps insulate and protect nerve conducting fibers, can become damaged.
Nervous system changes in chemotherapy patients can develop months or years after treatment. The onset of these symptoms is variable. Some drugs may cause symptoms during or immediately after the first dose, and some have a delayed onset of symptoms, up to several weeks, months, or even years after the last dose.
The severity of these symptoms is related to the amount of chemotherapy drug given. The higher or more frequent the dose of the drug the greater the chance that it will damage the coverings of the nerve and cause nerve damage (neuropathy).
Additionally, someone with pre-existing neuropathy (no matter what the cause) may be at risk for more severe and long lasting neuropathy.
Symptoms of Post Chemotherapy Neuropathy
Chemo (chemotherapy drugs) travels through the whole body, thus can damage different nerves. Symptoms tend to start farthest away from the head, but move in closer over time.
Chemotherapy drugs often strip the coverings from the nerves, damaging the nerves, particularly those of the hands, feet, arms and legs.
Loss of feeling in the hands and feet can make it hard to pick up small objects and cause clumsiness and difficulty walking. Some people with nerve damage first notice a “pins and needles” feeling, not unlike when an arm or leg “falls asleep”. Foot nerve damage after chemo is very common which results in stabbing pain and numbness.
As motor nerves are the most sensitive to toxins, this nerve damage may make you feel clumsy and cause difficulty in daily activities such as opening jars, fastening buttons, or even squeezing toothpaste tubes. Loss of balance and coordination is also due to this damage.
Per the American Cancer Society, “Chemo-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) is caused by the chemotherapy drugs used in cancer treatment.” (Neuropathy is also sometimes called paraesthesia or even myalgia.)
“The symptoms or signs of CIPN depend mostly on which nerves are involved. The most common symptoms are:
- tingling (or a “pins and needles” feeling)
- muscle shrinkage
- balance problems
- trouble with tripping and stumbling while walking
- loss of feeling (numbness)
- decreased or no reflexes
- increased sensitivity to temperature (usually cold) or pressure, so that things hurt more than usual
- constipation (see remedies for)
- trouble passing urine
- blood pressure changes
- trouble swallowing”
“CIPN often affects both sides of the body the same way; for example, the toes of both feet. It can cause severe pain and can affect your ability to do everyday things like walk, write, button your shirt, or pick up a coin. If it gets very bad it can cause very serious problems like changes in your heart rate, trouble breathing, paralysis, or organ failure”
This is the reason that medical doctors have to keep close watch over their patients when receiving chemotherapy.
Are these long-term side effects of chemotherapy?
When a person develops neuropathy due to chemotherapy, the oncologist will prescribe drugs to cover up the symptoms and the patient will get a pamphlet entitled “Living with Neuropathy”. There is hope that it will get better after the chemo is finished. However, quite often, the damaged cell will continue to deteriorate and the symptoms will get worse. The only way to correctly manage this chronic neuropathy is to address the real causes, not the symptoms.
Is CIPN permanent? Can this be Reversed?
There are many different treatments for Neuropathy. Making sure that anything might be contributing to the neuropathy needs to be addressed.
You can learn more about Neuropathy
Treatments for Chemotherapy Induced Neuropathy
The treatments listed above will not build healthy nerves. These other treatments are attempting to manage the nerve damage. 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.
We always recommend building health and nerves are no different.
Building Healthy Nerves: Restoring Health to the nerves. The healthier the nerves the less symptoms you will feel.
Pros: Healthy sensory nerves mean 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 mean 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 occasionally doesn’t give immediate relief (although some people feel a difference in the first week), 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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RELIEF FROM NEUROPATHY – WHAT WE RECOMMEND – Build Health and Get Your Quality of Life Back
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Chemo Brain Chemo Side Effects Causes of Neuropathy