It started slowly. You noticed your parent rubbing their feet and legs on a regular basis. When you asked what was the matter, they shrugged it off as just a little numbness. Several months later you noticed their walk had changed from a confident stride to a shuffling gait. You talked with them again and they admitted the numbness had become a burning pain that was worsening. This is when their doctor was notified and a diagnosis of peripheral neuropathy was made.
What is Peripheral Neuropathy?
Your body is made up of both a central and peripheral nervous system. The central system is your brain and spinal cord and the peripheral system is the network of nerves that transmit information from your central nervous system to all the other parts of your body. Peripheral neuropathy means that damage to one or more of these nerves has occurred. This disease affects approximately 20 million people in America and those with diabetes have a 60 percent chance of developing it.
The symptoms of peripheral neuropathy cover a wide-range of sensations and include anything from numbness and lack of feeling to tingling, weakness and extreme pain. Outside of diabetes, there may be several contributing factors. These include a vitamin deficiency, medications, toxins, excessive alcohol consumption, kidney disease, cancer, injuries and infections.
How to Help
If your parent has diabetes, helping them keep their blood sugar levels under control is probably the most important act you can do to help them. Other treatments and activities that have worked for some suffering from this often debilitating disease include the following:
- Understand the underlying cause. Attend your parent’s health care appointments so that you can come to an understanding of just what may have caused this and act as an advocate for your parent. If their primary health care providers don’t seem to know the cause, ask about possible tests that may reveal it. It sometimes takes a loud voice to act as an advocate, but your parent needs one now more than ever. Once the cause is known, the treatment becomes easier to determine.
- Castor oil packs and capsaicin cream can be applied topically and have been shown to reduce pain.
- Exercise is an important part of this plan. It’s difficult to keep moving when in pain, but it’s one of the best remedies for what ails your parent. Due to the buoyancy and decreased pressure on painful limbs, swimming or water aerobics is often a good choice. Other exercises that have proven especially useful include yoga and tai chi.
- Your parent may be more prone to falls due to lack of feeling and the inability to raise their feet as before. They may require a walker or cane which should be recommended and measured by their physical therapist. Make sure they have a safe home environment.
There are several supplements that have proven useful to some with this disease. You will need to check with your parent’s primary health care provider before including vitamins or herbs in their diet as many can interact with medications.
- Alpha lipoic acid is a powerful antioxidant that may reduce some of the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.
- Omega-3 fatty acids nourish nerve cells and reduce inflammation. A good source of this important nutrient is cold water fish such as salmon.
- St. John’s wort has been shown to reduce the pain and burning in some patients. This herb should not be combined with antidepressant medications. Other herbs that may help include evening primrose oil and skullcap. The mineral magnesium may provide relief as well.
Senior Care Provider
A senior care provider can assist with the daily activities of living, provide transportation, and offer support, encouragement and kind distractions when the pain of peripheral neuropathy erupts.
If you or an aging loved-one are considering senior care in Sunnyvale, CA, please contact the caring staff at Bay Area Home Care. Call today 650-938-4031.