How Bad Can Peripheral Neuropathy Get? Its Effect On Your Loved Ones

by Will Bozeman

Peripheral neuropathy is an invisible illness. This means that your loved ones might begin to live through abnormal sensations, extreme fatigue, and disabling pain without you noticing. After all, these symptoms are not outwardly evident at first.

But nerve pain is a degenerative disease that can impact all aspects of a person’s life, from their social interactions to their professional performance and ability to enjoy their favorite hobbies. 

If left untreated, this nerve damage can lead to severe complications, such as ulcers and gangrene, infections, muscle weakness, and loss of balance and coordination. Because of this, understanding how peripheral neuropathy affects your loved ones and what you can do to support them is critical. So, how can you help a loved one with peripheral neuropathy? Although a lot is yet to be understood about this illness, you are not alone in this. More than 20 million people have neuropathy in the US alone, a number that has encouraged the international scientific community to advance their research on viable treatments. And, today, there is a lot that you can do to emotionally and medically help your loved ones. Here is what you need to know.

Can You Live A Normal Life With Peripheral Neuropathy?

No two people with peripheral neuropathy will experience the same symptoms or be equally affected. Because of this, to visualize the full extent of the impact that peripheral neuropathy can have on a person’s life, it is necessary to offer an overview of what this condition is and how it develops. Let’s start.

Peripheral Neuropathy: An Overview

Peripheral neuropathy refers to the damage of nerves that reside outside of the brain and spinal cord. These nerves are responsible for carrying motor and sensory signals to the brain, as well as regulating autonomic processes such as blood circulation, heartbeat, and digestion. 

The nerves in the peripheral nervous system might become damaged for many reasons, including inadequate glycemic control in people with diabetes, taking certain medication, experiencing an infection such as HIV, or having an alcohol use disorder. 

Nerve damage often manifests itself with the “dying-back phenomenon”, which means that the nerves that are further away from the spine are the first ones to be damaged. In turn, neuropathy begins by affecting the extremities. 

The Debilitating Impact of Nerve Pain

At first, nerve damage will manifest itself with nothing more than mild numbness and tingling in the hands and feet. This is by far the most common symptom of this condition and derives from the fact that, when a nerve is damaged, sensory and motor signals are unable to reach the brain. 

When left unaddressed, these symptoms will begin to grow in intensity and impact, alongside the underlying nerve damage. Over time, this can lead to a cascade of consequences, which often include:

  • Numbness in the extremities and inability to feel pain from an injury. This can lead to infections, ulcers, or damage caused by unintentional exposure to extreme heat or cold. 
  • Extreme sensitivity to touch (hyperesthesia)
  • Experiencing pain from a stimulus that should normally be painless, such as when brushing teeth (allodynia)
  • Loss of coordination and balance
  • Extreme pain 
  • Sudden and uncontrolled muscle movements

A type of neuropathy can also extend to the autonomic nerves (the ones regulating body functions that we can’t consciously control). In this case, your partner or family member might begin to experience severe complications such as an erratic heartbeat, impaired digestion, and loss of bowel or bladder control

Are Your Loved Ones At Risk of Complications?

Some risk factors can increase the risk of severe complications. In particular, it is estimated that around 50% of people with diabetes will develop neuropathy during their lifetime, and the risk increases alongside the length of time during which their blood sugar isn’t properly managed. 

Additionally, peripheral neuropathy caused by diabetes increases the risk of foot ulcers, which currently account for up to 75% of non-traumatic limb amputations

It is particularly important to watch out for the symptoms of neuropathy in people with an alcohol use disorder, infection such as HIV, and nutritional deficiencies (i.e.: B12). Aging, undergoing therapies such as chemotherapy, and being exposed to toxins are also risk factors for neuropathy.

The Burden Of Peripheral Neuropathy To Family Members

Along with the various symptoms and limitations that proliferate in patients who suffer from peripheral neuropathy, an undeniable financial and emotional burden is placed on the loved ones of patients of peripheral neuropathy. 

This is not to say that patients of peripheral neuropathy and their suffering should take a back seat to the struggle of loved ones who care for them. 

Rather, loved ones who do not know the toll it will take on their lives would do best to prepare. Preparation in helping a loved one manage and seek effective treatment for their peripheral neuropathy is essential in mitigating financial, emotional, and even physical burdens.

How Diabetes Relates To Peripheral Neuropathy

Around the world, and especially in the United States, diagnosis of type-2 diabetes has been increasing continuously year over year. With the increase in type-2 diabetes and insulin resistance being a key element in the diagnosis of peripheral neuropathy. 

A recent study from 2020 found that diabetes had a “. . . global prevalence in adults in 2017 being 8.8% of the world population, with the anticipation of a further increase to 9.9% by 2045” (Standl 2020). 

Unfortunately, with the current trajectory of diabetic diagnosis, adults around the world will be more likely to experience the effects of diabetes and peripheral neuropathy. 

While these numbers increase, it is also likely and should be addressed that patients suffering from peripheral neuropathy will have loved ones in the same household who will also suffer from the condition. 

It is common, because of shared diets and lifestyles, that patients with type 2 diabetes and peripheral neuropathy will have loved ones who will not be able to treat each other because of their conditions and their attributed debilitating conditions. 

But if the number of patients suffering from peripheral neuropathy with the associated condition increases in one household, what can loved ones do to help their afflicted family members? What does effective treatment look like? Where can they turn to for help?

The Tragic Effect Of Peripheral Neuropathy With Diabetes

If the condition is left untreated and the patient’s diet does not change, one of the most tragic and heart-wrenching effects of type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, and peripheral neuropathy is the possibility of eventual amputation of lower limbs. 

Family members and afflicted patients often agonize over this very real possibility. It is not only the fear of lower limb amputation that drives patients and their loved ones to seek treatment but also what lower limb amputation would mean to the patient’s quality of life and his life expectancy. 

A recent 2019 study evaluating the inevitable effects of peripheral neuropathy concluded that it “ . . . is a leading cause of lower-limb amputation and disabling neuropathic pain. Amputations in patients with diabetes have a devastating effect on the quality of life and are associated with an alarmingly low life expectancy (on average only 2 years from the amputation). Amputation also places a substantial financial burden on healthcare systems and society in general” (Selvarajah 2019). 

Many may wonder how the amputation of a lower limb could lead to a lower life expectancy with an average of two years but this is because they likely fail to consider that quality of life is directly tied to life expectancy. 

When a patient with peripheral neuropathy goes through the process of lower limb amputation, complications such as infections, increased weight due to lowered exercise, and even increased depression skyrocket after the amputation of the lower limb. 

While the amputation is necessary to save a patient’s life, the amputation generally works as a band-aid rather than a cure for the severe pathogenesis of peripheral neuropathy. Anxiety over the condition of peripheral neuropathy also affects the quality of life for loved ones.

How Loved Ones Can Support Patients With Peripheral Neuropathy

Although the life of your loved ones might not be significantly affected by mild numbness in the feet and hands, it is important not to underestimate the risk of advanced nerve damage. For example, involuntary muscle movements and spasms can affect how a person moves and walk, thus leading to an increased risk of falls and injuries, especially among older adults. 

Additionally, symptoms such as hyperesthesia (excessive sensitivity to touch) can cause your loved ones to feel pain at the lightest touch. This can cause discomfort and disrupt essential functions such as sleeping. A study conducted in 2017 shows that over 68% of people with neuropathy suffer from significant sleep disturbances and sleep deprivation. 

What’s more, the pain and discomfort they experience may prevent them from taking part in social activities, enjoying their personal lives, or being productive at work. In some cases, neuropathy can even cause disability. 

So, how can you support your loved ones after a diagnosis of peripheral neuropathy? While this neurodegenerative disease isn’t always reversible, there is a lot that you can do to help them slow down nerve damage and reduce the risk of complications. 

And, educating yourself on the causes, symptoms, and impact of nerve pain is the first step. Here is what you need to know.

If there is definitive pathogenesis of peripheral neuropathy and loved ones continue to witness its debilitating effects, an increase in physical and emotional exhaustion can take its toll.

Educate Yourself On Their Condition

Many loved ones, as they work to provide for and meet the needs of patients with peripheral neuropathy, should take the time to educate themselves on the condition of peripheral neuropathy. 

Helping their loved ones cope with the pain of their condition and educating them on how to take care of their type 2 diabetes through diet and exercise is essential for maintaining and preparing for effective treatment. 

Loved ones have no need to despair if they educate themselves and their affected family members on the maintenance and treatment of their peripheral neuropathy. Best of all, patients and their loved ones can have hope when they seek treatment with effective medical physician-based treatments for peripheral neuropathy pain.

Listen To Their Grievances

As we have seen above, the symptoms of neuropathy aren’t always visible – but neither are the causes. Around 30% of people with nerve damage have idiopathic neuropathy, which means that the reasons and triggers behind their condition are unknown. 

For your loved ones, dealing with this “invisible” disease can be extremely frustrating, especially as they might not be able to receive adequate treatment. Because of this, it is important to lend an ear and provide support. This can help them accept and acknowledge their condition, which is the first step to having a fulfilling life when living with a degenerative disease. 

Support Their Decisions On Their Treatment

Choosing the right treatment for neuropathy is an important decision that your loved ones will take with the assistance of their healthcare providers. Although you might wish to share your opinion, it is important to offer your full support and remain confident that they have made the best choice for their health and well-being. 

If in doubt, you might consider accompanying them to their visits with their doctors or educate yourself about the treatment option they have chosen. This is especially important if your loved ones have taken the courageous decision to look beyond simple painkillers and wish to find a solution to the underlying cause of neuropathy. 

Provide Help To Their Caregiver

Taking care of someone with a neurodegenerative disease isn’t easy, even if you have provided your loved ones with at-home help. To ensure that they have all the support needed, help their caregivers with tasks such as massaging their hands and feet, keeping an eye on wounds that are not healing, and preparing nutritious meals. 

These might seem simple gestures, but they can have a profound impact on the mental and physical health of a loved one with neuropathy. When carried out regularly, these tasks can also be efficient strategies to keep complications such as ulcers at bay. 

Keep The Atmosphere Normal

Nerve pain is a type of chronic pain. As such, it can cause your loved ones to miss days at work, disengage from their social life and hobbies, become unable to move freely, and struggle with personal relationships. Unsurprisingly, a study conducted in 2020 estimated that the prevalence of depression and anxiety among those with neuropathy is as high as 65% and 73%, respectively. 

However, as family members and friends, we have plenty of tools to lower the risk of these mental health complications – starting with keeping the atmosphere normal. Although your loved one with neuropathy might require modifications to their lifestyle and living arrangements, keeping a positive attitude and helping them accept their condition are critical steps to take. 

If you need help, consider suggesting a visit to a specialized counselor or therapist who can help them with the mental health effects that chronic pain can cause. 

Give Them Your Presence

Simply being there for a loved one with nerve pain is already a great starting point. But you can also have a great impact on their mental and physical health by helping them stay active, encouraging walks, massaging painful hands and feet, and supporting them through their treatment journey. 

Be sure to put their minds at rest by reassuring them that tasks such as paying for utilities and maintaining the home are being addressed. This is an important time for them to just focus on their health and well-being!

Neuralgesia: An Effective Treatment Method

Regardless of the causes of peripheral neuropathy, patients want an effective treatment and Neuragenex offers a solution for peripheral neuropathy through its Neuralgesia program offered at Neuragenex treatment centers around the nation. 

Through their FDA-cleared devices and proprietary Neuralgesia treatment protocols, hundreds of patients have experienced relief from the pains and irritations of peripheral neuropathy. 

Patients who may have been wary of taking medication or undergoing expensive surgery to alleviate neuropathy symptoms can instead choose a non-surgical, non-invasive, non-pharmaceutical, and non-chiropractic treatment program that works.

How Neuralgesia Brings Relief To Patients And Family Members

Many patients experience immediate relief and regain function in their extremities after only a few treatment sessions. 

Neuragenex uses a proprietary treatment protocol consisting of specialized hydration therapies combined with high pulse high energy electrical stimulation to send high levels of electrical energy that activate and heal the nerves damaged from peripheral neuropathy. 

This proprietary protocol is not only used to treat the effects of peripheral neuropathy but other chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia and pain stemming accidents or surgery. Sessions with Neuragenex may result in immediate and long-lasting solutions to the conditions of peripheral neuropathy. 

Patients express relief from the pain but also the peace of mind that they do not need to rely on potentially addictive medications with destructive side effects or invasive procedures and surgeries that may make everything worse.

Help Your Loved Ones Today

Call Neuragenex and get your loved one into an office for an evaluation and proposed treatment plan. You’ll be glad you did and it may be the best thing you do to help your loved ones suffering from peripheral neuropathy.


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