Taking good care of your feet may relieve your symptoms. As peripheral neuropathy often affects the feet, you can take some simple precautions to alleviate symptoms. Avoid tight-fitting shoes and socks that can aggravate pain and tingling. Instead, choose comfortable, padded shoes and loose, cotton socks. Soaking your feet in cool water for 15 minutes twice a day can alleviate burning foot pain. Examine your feet (and your hands, if they have been affected) daily for wounds and signs of infection.
You can also massage your feet and hands to improve circulation and obtain temporary pain relief.
Walk with a cane or another form of support if neuropathy has affected your balance. Wheelchairs, braces, and splints may help to improve your mobility or enhance your ability to use an extremity that has been affected by nerve damage. If you have a bathtub, you may want to install rails next to it for safety.
Activity can enhance your quality of life if you live with neuropathy. Physical activity such as walking can improve your circulation. It can also help take your mind off of your health problems and reduce your stress level.
Your doctor is the best source of information on the drug treatment choices available to you.
Treatment for peripheral neuropathy may require addressing an underlying cause, such as poorly controlled diabetes, alcoholism, or exposure to toxic substances. If you have been taking medication that triggered neuropathy, your physician may be able to prescribe another drug. Nutritional supplements may be helpful if a poor diet is a factor in your illness. If you are diabetic and you develop peripheral neuropathy, improving your blood sugar control can improve your symptoms of neuropathy.
Your doctor may recommend physical therapy. Physical therapy may help you increase your muscle strength and control, and improve your ability to perform daily activities. The exercises will depend on the type of neuropathy and your symptoms. A physical, occupational, or vocational therapist can suggest ways in which you can adjust your lifestyle to continue your daily activities despite the effects of neuropathy.
Surgery is mainly used to treat a form of peripheral neuropathy in which nerves become swollen from excessive pressure, as in carpal tunnel syndrome. Before surgery for carpal tunnel will be considered, your physician will probably try other strategies to reduce the swelling that causes pressure on the median nerve. You may take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug such as ibuprofen or naproxen, or wear a splint or brace to keep your wrist from bending. Your doctor also might suggest cortisone injections into the carpal tunnel to reduce inflammation. If these approaches fail to relieve your symptoms, you may need surgery.
Surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome is typically performed under local anesthesia at an outpatient facility. After the anesthesia has taken effect, the doctor (usually an orthopedic or hand surgeon) will make an incision on the inside of the wrist and cut the ligament that forms the roof of the carpal tunnel. This will relieve pressure on the median nerve. The incision is then closed with stitches. Recovery takes about four weeks, during which time you may have to wear a splint.
Surgery may be an option if a tumor or ruptured disc is responsible for the nerve damage. The procedure would involve removing the tumor or repairing the disc.
Acupuncture, massage therapy, chiropractic care, meditation, and various types of movement therapy (including yoga and tai chi) may help to relieve the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy. Other alternative therapies that have been mentioned in connection with neuropathy include magnets, herbs, and vitamins. Little scientific information is available on the effectiveness of most of these approaches. However, acupuncture, a traditional Chinese medical technique, is widely used in many conventional hospitals and physician's offices, and may provide relief from the pain of peripheral neuropathy. Taking B-complex vitamins also could be beneficial, since vitamin deficiency is one of the risk factors for neuropathy. Ask your physician whether vitamins might help you. Talk to your physician if you plan to take herbal supplements, as they may cause harmful interactions with other medications.
The outcome of peripheral neuropathy varies considerably. If a doctor can identify the cause of your condition, and if damage to your nerves is limited, you may make a complete recovery. The recovery time will vary from a few weeks to over a year. In other circumstances, you may face chronic symptoms such as loss of sensation, partial or complete loss of movement, or disability.
Medication and changes in your lifestyle may enable you to cope better with the symptoms of neuropathy; even if a complete recovery is not possible. Research is under way on therapies that may repair or slow the pace of nerve damage.
Since peripheral neuropathy is often a persistent condition, your doctor may need to monitor your status periodically. Call your doctor if your symptoms worsen despite treatment. If your neuropathy has been successfully treated, there should be no need to see a physician unless symptoms recur.
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