Neuropathy is often associated with old age and chronic disease like diabetes. However, medical professionals revealed that the presence of the nerve pain might be a result of a person’s lifestyle choices.
Some neuropathies— like the Charcot-Marie-Tooth disorder— can be inherited. However, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) discovered that only 1 in 2,500 people in the United States may have this disease.
Causes of Neuropathy
The most common causes of neuropathy are classified into 3 broad categories: physical trauma, autoimmune disorders and infectious disease, and systemic diseases. These three broad categories all cover neuropathy that is acquired from lifestyle, the environment, or other outside stimuli which account for most of the cases recorded by the NINDS.
As the name suggests, neuropathy is caused by injuries to one’s body. Typically, isolated trauma can result in damage due to direct blows to the nerves that can crush, break, compress, or sever it from the spinal cord. Some of the cases that may result in nerve damage due to physical trauma are vehicular accidents, sports injuries, and falls.
In other cases, prolonged pressure or repetitive stress on particular nerves can also result in neuropathy. This may be due to poorly fitted casts or broken bones.
Infectious Illnesses and Autoimmune Disorders
Several bacteria and viruses that cause infections like HIV, Lyme disease, diphtheria, leprosy, Epstein-Barr virus, and shingles also cause neuropathy. This is because these germs attack the tissues of nerves directly.
Similarly, autoimmune disorders like lupus, Sjogren’s syndrome, chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, multiple sclerosis, Guillain-Barré syndrome, and rheumatoid arthritis may also cause nerve damage because the malfunctioning immune system destroys a person’s healthy nerve tissue.
Diabetes is the most common systemic disease that causes neuropathy. The high levels of glucose in the blood cause the nerves to deteriorate at an increased rate. However, it is not the only systemic disease that can cause neuropathy.
Illnesses involving the kidneys, for example, cause toxins to enter and circulate in the body. When blood reaches the nerves, there is a good chance that such substances cause damage to them. In the same manner, liver diseases can cause a chemical imbalance that may cause damage to the nerves.
Other systemic diseases that may cause neuropathy includes cancer, tumors, chronic inflammation, blood diseases, and ailments involving hormonal imbalance.
Conventional Vs Alternative Neuropathy Treatments
Conventional treatments like prescription medications have been used for decades in treating neuropathy. Among the known drugs that have been used to treat nerve pain are painkillers, antidepressants, and anticonvulsants.
Over-the-counter pain medication such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and aspirin may provide temporary relief from aching nerves, but it doesn’t really cure the ailment. Because of this, Western medicine doctors have opted for stronger medications like anticonvulsants and antidepressants for their sedative effects on the human body.
Anticonvulsants— specifically drugs that alleviate seizures such as gabapentin, pregabalin, tiagabine, and topiramate — have been seen to be beneficial for neuropathy patients. However, studies have shown that most of these substances have adverse effects that may be detrimental to the patient’s health and have little evidence to support their work on neuropathic pain.
Antidepressants, on the other hand, have several studies to prove that they are beneficial for disabling pain caused by nerve damage. In fact, one study found that older antidepressants such as amitriptyline, imipramine, nortriptyline, clomipramine, and desipramine give nerve pain patients significant relief. However, there is little evidence to support the same claim for newer drugs known as serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
While many medical professionals recommend Western medicine, neuropathic experts are starting to see the benefits of alternative treatments like acupuncture, vitamins, supplements, and transcutaneous electrical stimulation (TENS).
More specifically, herbal medication and all-natural supplements a regaining popularity among neuropathic patients after several studies revealed how plant- and animal-derived act on keeping nerves healthy. These supplements may have several side effects especially if the patient isn’t given the right dosage, but it remains as a widely-sought neuropathy treatment.
Although conventional treatments for neuropathy have been present for years, there are certain advantages to undergoing alternative treatments like acupuncture and naturally-derived as it is relatively safer compared to surgeries and psychiatric drugs while providing pain relief.
For more information on the forms of treatment available for neuropathy, refer to this Ultimate Neuropathy Treatment Guide.
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