Finding Relief From Neuropathy

Seven tips to help you ease—and maybe even avoid—neuropathy and feel your very best.

Health Monitor Staff
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If you have diabetes and don’t yet have neuropathy, it may be a matter of time before you develop it: The nerve disorder, which usually affects the toes, feet and hands, occurs most often in those who’ve had diabetes for 25 years or more. For some, the condition has no symptoms; for others, numbness and tingling result; and still others use words like stinging, burning and shooting to describe the discomfort.

The good news? You don’t have to suffer! These seven tips can help ease any distress.

1. Cover your feet: Compression stockings or socks can improve your neuropathy by providing a cushion for your feet against sudden injury. Opt for densely padded socks made of acrylic fiber with nylon and spandex for elasticity—the combo produces less pressure. Plus, if your socks are made with special synthetic materials, they’ll retain less moisture than cotton socks, which reduces your chance of developing foot ulcers.

2. Talk to your doctor about medication options: While ordinary OTC solutions may work for mild aches, sometimes doctors will prescribe antiseizure or antidepressant medications to treat your condition. In addition, there are a couple FDA-approved drugs currently available for the treatment of diabetic neuropathy.

3. Soak your feet: A warm foot bath with Epsom salts is a simple and relaxing home remedy for your discomfort. Not only will the soak reduce tension and swelling, the magnesium in the Epsom salts can help to relax muscles. Fill a container with enough warm water to cover your feet completely, and pour in ¼ cup salt for each cup of water in the bath.

Note: Ask your doctor before soaking in Epsom salts. If you have an infection or any swelling, the soak could make it worse.

4. A chemical in hot peppers may provide relief: Chili peppers contain capsaicin, a compound with antioxidant and pain-relieving properties. While there is no evidence that eating the spicy vegetable can ease your neuropathy, OTC topical pain cream containing capsaicin has proven to be a safe and effective option for temporary relief, according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Start by applying the cream three times a day to painful areas, and be sure to wash your hands right afterward.

5. Take control of your blood sugar: All things considered, the best way to relieve—and maybe even avoid—neuropathy is to follow your diabetes management plan. So check blood sugar levels as recommended by your healthcare team. Take any medications, including insulin, as prescribed, and try adopting a high-fiber diet. Aim to eat three meals a day, along with protein-packed midmorning, midafternoon and evening snacks. A fiber-rich diet will slow the absorption of carbohydrates, helping you avoid rapid increases in blood sugar levels.

6. A B-vitamin boost: Taking a vitamin B complex may help ease symptoms of neuropathy. In a study at the University of California, San Diego, combined supplementation of B1, B6 and B12 reduced pain and improved nerve conduction velocity. Ask your doctor to recommend a daily vitamin B complex that’s right for you.

Warning! Excessively high vitamin B6 intake can actually cause peripheral neuropathy over time, so talk to your doctor before starting any kind of dietary supplement.

7. Eat these for relief: Nuts, especially almonds, walnuts, pecans and peanuts, are a rich source of biotin, a B vitamin linked to improvements in symptoms of peripheral neuropathy. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, if you consume foods with a higher biotin content, it may alleviate your pain. In addition, the fiber in nuts can control your blood sugar levels and help prevent further nerve damage. Start with one ounce (about a handful) a day and see if you notice any improvement.


February 2014