Myths About Neuropathy
Although many doctors commonly label Peripheral Neuropathy as “Idiopathic” (meaning the cause is unknown), there are a tremendous amount of research studies that discuss a vast multitude of well known causes of neuropathy. These studies have been published in acclaimed medical journals, such as, the Journal of The American Medical Association, The British Medical Journal, Journal of Pharmacokinetics, (et al.) The research further reveals the ability of these nerves to regenerate under the proper treatment conditions. However, many doctors have not stayed current with the scientific literature, and, as a result, continue to perpetuate myths and misinformation.
Here are some common myths along with the most up to date factual information about neuropathy.
Myth #1: Medication will cure my neuropathy.
False – The most common treatment for neuropathy is the…
Take- Some-Pills-And-Wait-And-See method. Some of the more common drugs given include gabapentin (Neurontin), pregabalin (Lyrica), duloxetine (Cymbalta), and Tramodol (Ultram)—all of which have serious side effects. While this may be necessary for the temporary relief of severe symptoms, the truth is that medications do absolutely nothing to reverse nerve damage. In fact, some medications, such as gabapentin, actually accelerate the nerve damage.
Myth #2: Neuropathy only affects people with diabetes.
False – Actually, diabetic patients account for less than 20 percent of all neuropathy cases. There are far more neuropathy sufferers that do not have diabetes, according to a 2009 study. A study published by the Neuropathy Association revealed the following findings: “Neuropathy is often misrepresented as only being diabetes-related. However, this survey demonstrates that for every diabetic neuropathy patient, there are at least six more patients suffering with other various forms of neuropathies.”
While neuropathy is common in diabetic patients, there are many other causes of neuropathy. Some common causes include: Chemotherapy, Statin medications, Blood pressure medications such as Norvasc (amlodipine), Fluoroquinolone antibiotics (Cipro, Levaquin, Floxin, Avelox, Noroxin), B-vitamin deficiencies, nerve damage or entrapment, and side effects associated with other commonly prescribed medications. If you feel pain, even if you’re not diabetic, your neuropathy may be due to one or more of the causes listed above.
Myth #3: My doctor told me, “Nerves don’t regenerate. once damaged…that’s it and I will just have to live with my neuropathy!!”
False – Your doctor is not up-to-date on the current research. There are extensive studies revealing the contrary. Research studies from Harvard Medical School, and Massachusetts General Hospital (Wellman Center for Photomedicine) with published articles appearing in the International Journal of Endocrinology, 2012 have revealed that an array of therapies including low-level-laser therapy, neurotrophic nutrition (nutrients that evoke nerve repair) and exercise and nutrition have been found to aid in nerve repair and regeneration.
Myth #4: I only have numbness and tingling, so it’s no big deal.
False – Many neuropathy patients who suffer from mild numbness or tingling think that their symptoms are no big deal. They don’t understand that what they are feeling is only the tip of the iceberg. They think because they can continue to function—business as usual—the numbness and tingling will fade away all by itself without any treatment.
A study published in the British Medical Journal proved this myth false, showing that 75 percent of sufferers who do nothing about the numbness and tingling, will have either signficant pain or disability, twelve months later. Let’s face it, if your neuropathy symptoms haven’t gone away by now, it’s not likely they will disappear on their own. Remember, studies have shown that if ignored, symptoms can intensify, causing loss of sensation, unremitting pain, and even disability.
Myth #5: Neuropathy is a natural result of aging.
False – You can grow old gracefully without ever experiencing these levels of nerve damage. Neuropathy, once seen only in the senior sector, is now affecting people as young as thirty years old. This disorder can be caused by injuries, chronic illnesses, and complications caused by medications, among other things. By taking the right steps early, you can avoid suffering from many neuropathic symptoms as you get older.
Myth #6: I have to accept my neuropathy and learn to live with it.
False – Neuropathy doesn’t have to be a life sentence. A combination of proper stimulation to your nerves at home and in the clinic, detox, glucose control, and appropriate nutrients plays a pivotal role in nerve repair and regeneration. Whatever you do, don’t go untreated! (see tab on: Treatments / Laser Treatments)
Myth #7: All neuropathy feels the same.
False – Neuropathy symptoms can vary dramatically, depending on the cause and the stage of neuropathy. We know that there are many causes of neuropathy (see Myth #2). Early-stage neuropathy symptoms are typically mild numbness and tingling, whereas late-stage neuropathy can show up as creepy-crawly sensations, burning feet or hands, sharp pains, a loss of balance, and even significant muscle weakness. An unhappy nerve (injured or damaged) can’t communicate as well to the brain, and the brain misinterprets the signals. This can manifest as a wide variety of different symptoms.
Myth #8: My neuropathy pain is well-controlled by medication, so I’m doing just fine.
False – Medications merely mask symptoms, while the underlying condition continues to get worse. Medicating the symptoms is like taking the battery out of your smoke alarm to stop the noise.
Your pain might be gone, but the meds might be hiding a gradual loss of nerve function, and you could be losing your ability to maintain good balance. Then one day, without warning, you might fall and break your arm—or worse, a hip. Remember, if your neuropathy is not getting better, it’s probably getting worse.
Myth #9: Neuropathy only affects the hands and feet.
False – Although neuropathy often begins in the hands and feet, it will eventually slowly creep up the calves and forearms, often presenting as severe cramps, heaviness, or weakness in the legs, a creepy-crawly sensation, and a dry discoloration of the skin. In some cases, neuropathy can even cause dangerous complications in organ function.
Myth #10: The best thing to do for my neuropathy is to wait and see what happens.
False – This is by far the worst thing you can do. The consensus of the professional healthcare community, including top neurologists, oncologists and surgeons, all agree that peripheral neuropathy rarely, if ever, improves on its own. More often than not, the condition continues to worsen and can become debilitating. By detecting and treating neuropathy early on, you are more likely to have a much better prognosis. That’s not to say that more advanced neuropathy cannot be resolved. However, people with more advanced neuropathy tend to need more care, and the results tend to be slower.