January 20, 2012

Diabetic Neuropathy – Part 5

In the last blog, alternative treatments for diabetic neuropathy were mentioned. Now it is time to discuss the alternative treatments as some are quite effective, but again it is worth pointing out that not everything will work for everyone.

Capsaicin is the chemical that gives hot peppers their bite. When applied to the skin, capsaicin creams can reduce pain sensations in some people. Side effects may include a burning feeling and skin irritation. Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) is one of the most interesting developments in pain research is the discovery that alpha-lipoic acid, a powerful antioxidant found in food, may be effective at relieving the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.

Your doctor may prescribe transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) therapy, which can help prevent pain signals from reaching your brain. TENS delivers tiny electrical impulses to specific nerve pathways through small electrodes placed on your skin. Although safe and painless, TENS does not work for everyone or for all types of pain. TENS may be prescribed in addition to other treatments.

Acupuncture may help relieve the pain of neuropathy, and generally does not have any side effects. Keep in mind that you may not get immediate relief with acupuncture and will likely require more than one session. Biofeedback therapy uses a special machine to teach you how to control certain body responses that reduce pain. You then learn how to control these same responses yourself. Biofeedback techniques are often taught in medical centers and hospitals.

The above are all worth investigating and may be of value for you. You may need to use a combination or use in combination with prescription medications. If one treatment does not work in a reasonable time, try another treatment.

The best way to control diabetic neuropathy, and what it does, is to keep your blood glucose tightly managed, taking good care of your feet, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Yes, maintaining tight management of your diabetes requires a big commitment on your part, but the rewards are worth it. Whether you are on oral medications or insulin, by watching the foods you eat and monitoring your blood glucose levels is the only way to help avoid or prevent neuropathy and other complications of diabetes.

I would like to remind everyone to reread part one of this series about the four main types of neuropathy. This is because peripheral neuropathy is the most common form, but also because it is the most talked about. Foot care of foot problems is so important I want everyone to know how important this is. I do not wish to seen people needing an amputation because they did not take care of their feet.

First, have a comprehensive foot examination at least a minimum of once a year and more often if possible. Check your feet daily. No, do not just take a glance at them, but really look and examine them. If you are unable the bottoms of your feet, use a mirror or ask a family member or even a friend to examine your feet for blisters, cuts, bruises, cracked and peeling skin, redness and swelling.

Please wash your feet everyday with lukewarm water and mild soap. If you cannot tell the temperature of the water with your feet, use a dampened washcloth and touch it to an area of your body that is still sensitive to temperature. Wash thoroughly and rinse before drying. Be careful when drying as rubbing too vigorously can damage your skin. Dry between your toes and if necessary moisturize your skin liberally, but it is not good to put the lotion between your toes. This applies especially to men to avoid fungal growth.

Trim your toenails regularly and carefully to avoid cutting into the skin. Use a toenail clipper and with an emery board round off the corners not filing into the skin. If you are unable to reach your feet, ask a family member to assist or schedule a regular appointment with your podiatrist to get this done.
Wear clean and dry sock and preferably ones that have a cushion on the bottom to assist in keeping the moisture away from your feet. Avoid socks that are too tight or have a tight elastic at the top or thick seams. You will only harm your feet with this type of sock.

The last, and I want to emphasize this, is to wear shoes that fit your feet properly, are cushioned and comfortable. A podiatrist can be very helpful in teaching you how to buy properly fitting shoes that will help in preventing problems such as corns and calluses. Never buy new shoes in the morning. Wait until later in the afternoon when your feet are more swollen to ensure the shoes are not too tight. Shoes that fit well can be costly. If you are on Medicare, your plan may cover one pair of shoes per year. Your doctor and possibly your diabetes educator may be able to help you. Never buy shoes that pinch your toes or that do not support your feet. Just because it may be the latest fashion, does not mean they are for you.

Please read these articles for additional information, article 1 and article 2.  Part 5 of 5.

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