Peripheral neuropathy, a condition that refers to damage to the peripheral nervous system, affects an estimated 20 to 30 million Americans per year. The condition can be difficult to diagnose and hard to treat, which has led many neuropathy patients to seek alternative treatments. Banner Health is looking to provide education on the treatments available to northern Colorado residents to not only manage expectations but also help those suffering from neuropathy receive the best care possible.
Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy often start with tingling, numbness, weakness or sensitivity in the hands and feet that can progress up the arms and legs. Because of these symptoms, neuropathy patients can be more prone to falls and they may not feel, and subsequently treat, wounds to the body, putting them at higher risk for infection.
When meeting a new neuropathy patient, Dr. Sarah Yang, a neurologist at Banner Health Center in Fort Collins, starts by trying to understand if there is an underlying cause of her patient’s neuropathic pain such as a pinched nerve or diabetes. If there is an underlying cause, addressing the issue is the first method of treatment. If there is not, prescribing pain medications is the only treatment available. Peripheral neuropathy isn’t known to have any cure, nor is it reversible. It is expected that patients will decline in their condition, which leaves many who suffer from it in a state of frustration.
Some alternative methods such as diet and exercise are valid and beneficial, while others with little validating data, could be misleading or detrimental to patient health. Additionally, these methods often aren’t covered by insurance, resulting in high out-of-pocket expenses for the patient.
“It’s hard to live with the idea that this is an incurable disease and that it is going to get worse,” Dr. Sarah Yang said. “It is imperative that patients seek the advice of a medical professional when considering these new, and often times unregulated, treatment methods.”
Alternative treatment methods are becoming more widely sought after and educating the community on what is safe and effective is vital.