Neuropathy occurs when you sustain damage to your peripheral nerves. The symptoms generally include pain, weakness, and numbness in various areas of your body. The affected nerves may cause varying symptoms. Neuropathy is caused by several different issues. This can make diagnosing neuropathy slightly difficult.
Our experts at Epic Healthcare in Highland Village, Texas are familiar with the diagnosis and treatment of neuropathy. We want to pass our knowledge on to you to help you better understand this condition. By understanding your options as far as diagnosis and treatment go then you can choose which treatment options are right for you.
In order to diagnose neuropathy your doctor will begin with a physical exam. Tell your doctor what symptoms you are experiencing and what part of your body is affected. Advise which specific sensations you experience. All of this information can help your health care provider reach an accurate diagnosis. In addition to the physical exam it’s likely that your doctor will review your full medical history. They may ask questions about your lifestyle habits and family history to ensure that they have as much information as possible.
Your doctor will also check your reflexes along with muscle tone and muscle strength. They’ll examine your posture along with your coordination. Often times your doctor will order other tests to rule out other conditions. Blood tests can detect things like diabetes, vitamin deficiencies, and abnormalities with your immune system. An MRI or CT scan will check for abnormalities such as tumors or herniated disks that could be causing the problems.
Other tests may include an electromyography. This records the electrical activity throughout your muscles in an effort to detect any nerve damage. A probe sends electrical signals along your nerve to an electrode. This will record the nerve’s response to the electrical signal.
Other nerve tests may include a reflex screen, sweat test, and sensory tests. Your doctor might perform a nerve biopsy to collect more information about nerve irregularities. A nerve biopsy will allow them to look for abnormalities as well. In addition, a skin biopsy may be able to provide insight if you are experiencing a reduction in nerve endings. The information compiled from these tests will help your doctor diagnose your neuropathy.
Neuropathy Treatment Options
There are a wide variety of treatment options for neuropathy. The goal of these options is to manage the condition while relieving symptoms. Some over the counter medications can be used to treat your condition. If the over the counter versions aren’t effective then your doctor may prescribe stronger medications. Topical treatments are also frequently used to help improve the symptoms of neuropathy. Lidocaine patches have also been known to help, as have antidepressants. Unfortunately, the medications that are commonly recommended to treat neuropathy can be accompanied by a variety of side effects. For this reason, many people seek out alternative treatment options.
Therapy and other procedures may be used to help ease the symptoms of neuropathy. A treatment called transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, or TENS is often used. This type of therapy involves electrodes placed on the skin. The electrodes create a gentle current of electricity at a variety of frequencies. This type of therapy is typically done for about 30 minutes per day for a month.
Physical therapy helps with the muscle weakness caused by your neuropathy. It will help improve movements. However, depending on the severity of your condition you may also need braces, a walker, cane, or wheelchair. If your condition is caused by nerve pressure from tumors then surgery could remove the tumors and help relieve the pressure.
Alternative Treatment Options for Neuropathy
Complementary therapies and treatments may be used to treat neuropathy for those who don’t find relief with other methods of treatment. Acupuncture has shown quite a bit of promise as a treatment for neuropathy. An acupuncturist insterts very thin needles into specific points on your body in an effort to reduce symptoms. When performed by a certified practitioner in a sterile environment many people see a reduction in symptoms after multiple acupuncture sessions.
Herbal treatments such as those using evening primrose oil have helped neuropathy patients with diabetes. If you choose to go the herbal route you’ll want to discuss this option with your doctor. Some herbs can interact with medications that you are currently taking. Before starting an herbal regimen it’s a good idea to find out if your doctor has any insight into how it could impact your current medication regimen.
Alpha-lipoic acid is used as a neuropathy treatment in Europe. However, this treatment is not without side effects. It can impact blood sugar levels and leave you with an upset stomach or skin rash. Some people also select to use amino acids for treatment. Acetyl-L-carnitine may help those who’ve had to go through chemotherapy and those who have diabetes. This also is not without side effects. Amino acids may cause nausea and vomiting.
If your doctor does diagnose you with neuropathy then it’s a good idea to see what treatment options they suggest. If you are uncomfortable with their suggestion then ask about alternative treatments such as acupuncture or various other therapies. They may be able to provide you with additional insight or a recommendation.