Peripheral neuropathy refers to a condition in which peripheral nerve damage leads to pain, numbness or other symptoms. This condition affects roughly 20 million people in the United States, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. It can be caused by certain diseases, such as diabetes, as well as chemotherapy, trauma and other health problems. Treating peripheral neuropathy involves addressing the underlying condition that is causing it and taking medication to manage symptoms.
Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy can cause a wide range of symptoms, depending on which nerves are damaged. Common signs of sensory nerve damage include tingling or numbness, burning sensations and pain in the affected areas. Typically, tingling or loss of sensation starts in the hands or feet and then spreads to the arms or legs. Other signs of peripheral neuropathy can include problems with coordination and muscle weakness when motor nerves are damaged. When autonomic nerves are damaged, symptoms can include blood pressure fluctuations, increased sensitivity to heat, digestive problems and bladder or bowel issues.
Causes of Peripheral Neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy is associated with several potential causes, ranging from diabetes and autoimmune diseases to repetitive stress injuries and vitamin deficiencies. Those receiving chemotherapy for cancer can develop peripheral neuropathy due to the side effects of the medications that are used. In fact, approximately 30 to 40 percent of those receiving chemotherapy treatment experience signs of peripheral neuropathy, according to the NINDS. In some cases, the pain and other symptoms can become so severe that patients choose to stop undergoing chemotherapy.
Managing Peripheral Neuropathy
Those who have developed peripheral neuropathy can manage their symptoms in a few different ways. While treating or correcting the underlying condition can reduce these symptoms, this is mainly effective for those with a manageable condition, such as diabetes or an injury. Those undergoing chemotherapy typically require the help of medications to control these symptoms. Medications that are sometimes used to manage peripheral neuropathy include oral nonprescription pain relievers, prescription painkillers and topical pain relievers.
Medications that are typically used for peripheral neuropathy can provide at least short-term pain relief, but they are not always effective. Over-the-counter pain relievers are generally only effective at easing mild symptoms. Prescription painkillers can lead to addiction, especially when they are taken on a long-term basis. Nonprescription and prescription pain relievers can also cause side effects or adverse reactions.
Topical pain relievers can be effective at easing pain in a certain area. Chemotherapy patients who have not had success with topical medications prescribed by their doctor might find relief from topical ointments prepared by a compounding pharmacy. Compounding involves using medications that are customized to meet the needs of individual patients. This might involve combining different medications or using a customized dosage of a certain medication for improved results. For those with chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy, this typically means having topical therapies specially prepared to reduce the risk of side effects and provide more effective pain relief.
Patients with peripheral neuropathy caused by chemotherapy can contact a local compounding pharmacy to learn more about topical treatments for their symptoms.