By Robin Westen
Do you experience a sort of numbness, tingling, burning, or pain in your hands and feet? This condition, called Peripheral Neuropathy, may be caused by a bad injury, an infection, metabolic problems, or exposure to toxins. But the most common cause is diabetes. If you’re experiencing any of these sensations, make an appointment to see your doctor. Here are treatments that may help your condition:
Medications: Mild symptoms may be relieved by over-the-counter pain medications. In more severe cases, your doctor may recommend prescription painkillers. Drugs containing opiates, such as codeine, can lead to dependence, constipation or sedation, so these drugs are generally prescribed only when other treatments fail.
Capsaicin: This is a cream containing the naturally occurring substance found in hot peppers and has been found to cause modest improvements in peripheral neuropathy symptoms. Just as with spicy foods, it may take time for you to get comfortable with capsaicin since the cream creates a hot sensation on your skin.
Lidocaine patch: This patch contains the topical anesthetic lidocaine. You apply it to the area where your pain is most severe, and you can use up to four patches a day to relieve pain. You may experience a rash at the site of the patch.
Antidepressants: Some antidepressants help relieve pain by interfering with chemical processes in your brain and spinal cord that cause you to feel pain. But there are possible side effects, which may include nausea, drowsiness, dizziness, decreased appetite, and constipation.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS): In this therapy, adhesive electrodes are placed on the skin, and a gentle electric current is delivered through the electrodes at varying frequencies. TENS has to be applied regularly.
Pamper your feet: Check daily for signs of blisters, cuts or calluses. Tight shoes and socks can worsen pain and tingling and may lead to sores that won't heal. Wear soft, loose cotton socks and padded shoes.
Eat healthy meals: If you're at high risk of neuropathy, make sure your diet focuses on low-fat meats and dairy products and includes lots of fruits, vegetables. and whole grains. Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all.
Massage your hands and feet: Or have someone massage them for you. Massage helps improve circulation, stimulates nerves, and may temporarily relieve pain.
Uncross your legs: Don’t keep your knees crossed or lean on your elbows for long periods of time. Doing so may cause new nerve damage.
Acupuncture: About three-quarters of people with peripheral neuropathy report getting some relieve after an acupuncture treatment. However, you may need multiple sessions before you notice improvement. Make sure it’s performed by a certified practitioner using sterile needles.
Alpha-lipoic acid: Used as a treatment for peripheral neuropathy in Europe for years, this antioxidant may help reduce the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy. Discuss the use of alpha-lipoic acid with your doctor because it may affect your blood sugar levels. Other side effects may include stomach upset and skin rash.
Robin Westen is ThirdAge's Medical Director. Check for her daily updates. Her latest book, co-authored with Dr. Alyssa Dweck, is "V is for Vagina."
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