Neuropathy 101

Neuropathy 101

OneVillage Team

Many of those who deal with cancer will also have to deal with neuropathy - this piece will explain what neuropathy is, and how it affects cancer patients.

Cancer and cancer treatment are, on their own, significant struggles. However, both the disease itself and cancer treatments can lead to a host of associated health issues. Many cancer patients and their supporters may be only vaguely aware of the association between cancer, cancer treatments, and neuropathy. This guide will help explain what neuropathy is as well as options for neuropathy treatment, including the topic of natural remedies for neuropathy.

What is Neuropathy?

Neuropathy generally refers to damage to the nerve system. It is most associated with “peripheral nerves”, and so can be referred to as “peripheral neuropathy.” Peripheral nerves refer to all of those nerves outside of your brain and spinal cord.

When someone suffers from neuropathy, their peripheral nerves are damaged or not functioning properly in some way. This leads to a variety of difficulties, particularly when it comes to motor functions, senses, and automatic processes in the body, such as temperature control.

What are the Signs of Neuropathy?

As mentioned neuropathy can variably affect nerves that are in charge of motor functions, sensory perception (such as touch), or automatic functions. The kind of nerves that are damaged, and the severity of that damage, will lead to different symptoms - and may require different neuropathy treatment. In many cases, signs of neuropathy may seem contradictory, particularly when automatic nerve systems are affected. If your nerves that control sweating are affected, for example, this could lead either to excess sweating, or an inability to sweat.

Some of the most common signs of neuropathy include the following:

  • Numbness
  • Shifts in Proprioception (awareness of position)
  • Extreme sensitivity
  • Pain
  • Muscle Weakness
  • Lack of Balance
  • Paralysis
  • Heat intolerance
  • Excessive sweating
  • Inability to sweat
  • Bladder or bowel problems
  • Changes in blood pressure

What Causes Neuropathy?

Many people associate neuropathy closely with diabetes, and it is true that a majority of neuropathy cases are caused by some kind of diabetes. In fact, it is estimated that nearly 60% of people with diabetes have some form of nerve damage. However, there are other causes of neuropathy, some of which are of especial note to those undergoing cancer treatment. These can include the following:

Injury: Any injury that does damage to your nerves can result in neuropathy. These can range from serious accidents to sitting for too long in an uncomfortable position and putting pressure on your nerves.

Kidney Disease: Some kidney diseases can cause toxins to build up in the tissues of the body, which can then lead to damage of the nerves within those tissues.

Hypothyroidism: Hypothyroidism can lead to fluid buildup in the tissues of the body, putting excess pressure on nerves in those areas.

Inflammation: Any disease that causes inflammation can also put pressure on these nerves, leading to damage. Some medications for other diseases can also cause inflammation and lead to neuropathy.

Vitamin Deficiency: Some vitamins, like various B vitamins, are essential to maintaining healthy nerves. If you are deficient in these vitamins, you may begin to experience neuropathy.

Tumors: If you are a cancer patient and are developing tumors, these tumors can begin to put pressure on your nerves, leading to nerve damage and neuropathy.

Chemotherapy: Many drugs that are used for chemotherapy treatments have the side effect of damaging nerves. Neuropathy is thus something that many undergoing cancer treatments may have to deal with.

Neuropathy Treatment

If you are undergoing cancer treatment, your oncologist may recommend drugs for the purpose of neuropathy treatment. These drugs will try to prevent damage to nerves, or at least mitigate the side effects of cancer treatments.

However, there are many natural remedies for neuropathy treatment that you can use to mitigate the side effects of cancer treatment. These include some of the following:

Vitamin Supplements: As mentioned, many nerves rely on vitamins to remain strong. By taking extra vitamin supplements, you can help promote the health of your nerves. Check with your doctor about this option if you’re undergoing cancer treatments because some supplements influence the success of chemotherapy.

Diet Changes: Many foods are full of the B vitamins that your nerves need to stay healthy. Incorporating more of these foods, such as leafy greens and fish, into your diet can help stave off neuropathy. You can also try to incorporate more foods filled with antioxidants to try and combat inflammation, such as blueberries or walnuts.

Exercise: While getting enough exercise may be difficult during cancer treatment, it can help build up muscle mass, helping protect against nerve damage. You can consult your doctor for easy exercises to do while undergoing cancer treatment.

Massages: Massages and other physical therapies can help stimulate your nerves and muscles, and can serve as effective natural remedies for neuropathy. They will also help in that they will reduce your stress level, which may help with the progress of your cancer treatment in general. If you don’t have the time, money, or energy to leave your house for these services, our partner MIKO offers a variety of foot massagers you can use in your home.

Acupuncture: Because of the way that acupuncture impacts blood flow and stimulates nerve pathways, it can be a great option for people with neuropathy.

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