The Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment Of Neuropathy In Your Senior Loved One
Individuals often experience little-known conditions that challenge their ability to enjoy life. One of those conditions is neuropathy, which is the medical term for nerve damage. Pegasus home health care professionals in Ventura and elsewhere offer these details on how neuropathy affects your senior loved one.
Neuropathy is also known as peripheral neuropathy or PN. Your body has two systems of nerves. One is the central nervous system, and the other is the peripheral nervous system.
The central nervous system includes the nerves in your spinal cord and brain. All the other nerves are part of the peripheral system. The two systems are in continual communication with each other and exchanging information about your body.
Nerves consist of cells called neurons. Damage to neurons impairs communication. Damage occurs in a variety of ways and can affect only one nerve or several.
The peripheral system is made up of three kinds of nerves:
- Sensory – transmit information from your five senses to your brain
- Motor – transmit information from your brain to your muscles
- Autonomic – monitor your body functions that are not under your control, such as breathing
The symptoms of neuropathy will depend on which of these nerves are damaged and the extent of the damage. Millions of individuals have neuropathy, some with debilitating symptoms. Most have pain that interferes with the activities of daily life.
Neuropathy Has Many Causes
Medical science is aware of more than 100 causes of neuropathy. Diabetes leads the list of causes.
Second is chemotherapy. For many cancer patients, the symptoms of neuropathy decrease after the chemo is finished. Others are fine immediately after treatment but develop neuropathy months to years later.
Individuals with AIDS/HIV may develop neuropathy either from the disease itself or as a side effect of treatment. Many autoimmune diseases cause neuropathy, including:
- Celiac disease
- Guillain-Barré syndrome
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Sjogren’s syndrome
Many other diseases, some inherited, or the treatments for them can potentially damage nerves. Infections, such as Lyme disease, are another cause of cell damage. Exposure to toxic substances can destroy nerve cells.
There are some causes of neuropathy that are under the control of the individual. These involve lifestyle factors such as alcohol or drug abuse and poor eating habits. Stress, trauma, and repetitive motions lead to nerve damage for some individuals.
More older people than younger individuals develop neuropathy. That is partially explained by other medical conditions they have. Some cases are designated as idiopathic, meaning the cause is unknown.
The risk factors for neuropathy are essentially the same as the causes. However, there are ways you can help your senior loved one minimize them. Keeping diabetes controlled is essential.
Pegasus home health care services include meal planning and monitoring medications. Our professionals can help eliminate malnutrition, which is linked to peripheral neuropathy. They can also ensure that your senior gets enough Vitamin B-12, as deficiencies in it are also linked to neuropathy.
They can help you find treatment for alcohol or drug abuse when necessary. Our experts also recognize the early symptoms of neuropathy. That can help your loved one obtain early treatment.
Getting treatment as quickly as possible can prevent or reduce the pain from neuropathy. Chronic pain has a negative impact on the central nervous system. It also leads to depression or insomnia that seriously affects the quality of life for your loved one.
Pain Is The Primary Symptom
The symptoms will vary depending on which nerves are damaged. They often appear gradually, and typically start in the limbs. In the beginning, your senior may describe feeling a sensation of “pins and needles” in their feet or hands.
Sometimes the primary sensation is numbness rather than tingling. Other individuals feel sharp, burning, or throbbing pain. In most cases, the symptoms progress from the limbs to the rest of the body.
Other symptoms include:
- Sensitivity to touch
- Pain during activities that shouldn’t be painful
- Muscle weakness, lack of coordination, or paralysis
- Sensation of having on gloves or socks when not wearing either
- Heat intolerance, excessive sweating, or inability to sweat
- Problems with digestion, bowels, or bladder
- Issues with blood pressure that result in dizziness
Not every symptom is present in every individual. Many of the symptoms can lead to falls. Falling is a major source of injuries for the elderly, some of which cause even more nerve damage.
Neuropathy does not have a cure, but the symptoms can be treated. Because some causes can be treated, physicians start with those first. But more often, treatment begins with over-the-counter pain relievers.
Ointments containing capsaicin can help if your loved one’s skin isn’t fragile, and they can tolerate the burning capsaicin causes. Lidocaine patches provide relief for some. Some prescription antidepressants keep the pain signals from reaching the brain.
Anti-seizure medications are able to relieve some nerve pain. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) and physical therapy can provide pain relief. When the pain is intractable, prescription pain medications become necessary.
Pegasus is a licensed Home Care Organization and a Joint Commission Accredited Home Health Care organization. We offer expert home health care services in Ventura and our other locations. We’re here to assist you and your senior loved one for all levels of care.