NEUROPATHY Part I
Many of you are already familiar with the term "neuropathy", usually in the context of diabetes in the form of "diabetic neuropathy". But do you really understand what neuropathy is, why it occurs, and who is at risk? I would venture to say that the answer to all three of the above questions is a resounding NO!
I would like to take a little of your time to elucidate the details of this poorly understood condition and offer some hope to those of you who are either suffering from the condition, or know someone who is.
First of all neuropathy is a condition in which the nerves, usually the "peripheral nerves" meaning those nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord are affected. This affect takes the form of a gradual and progressive spiral of symptoms including burning, tingling, and a loss of sensation and balance. It can advance into the development of wounds from relatively minor trauma that can progressively worsen and become infected, leading to the ultimate medical resolution, which is amputation. The only other "conservative" treatments that modern medicine has to offer are a cascade of drugs, often of progressively greater strength, which cause progressively worsening secondary symptoms. As many of you are already all too aware, once you are caught up in this process the secondary symptoms of the drugs that you are prescribed create a situation in which you are prescribed more drugs in a progressive attempt to control or at least deal with this ever increasing myriad of additional symptoms.
Neuropathy presents itself in three major forms. The first usually occurs in patients suffering from the secondary effects of one of the first treatment modalities in the medical toolbox to treat cancer. This form is termed post-chemo neuropathy. Perhaps the most commonly recognized form of neuropathy is diabetic neuropathy. This form occurs as a result of diabetic disorders which ultimately cause damage to the nerves in the hands, arms, legs and feet. The last form and unfortunately the most common form is idiopathic neuropathy. This form occurs for unknown reasons.
There are some other forms of neuropathy which are less common which can occur as a result of trauma, or due to other disease states, such as Guillian Barre Syndrome, and multiple sclerosis.
The one common thread in every one of the forms of neuropathy is that there has been a vascular breakdown or compromise of the circulation. This insult to the circulation generally affects what is called the "micro-circulation". The micro-circulation supplies oxygen and other nutrients to the nerves. This vascular compromise begins to cause a breakdown of tiny nerves in the extremities called C-fibers. These tiny nerves are sensory nerves, meaning they give you the ability to feel different things, such as pain, pressure, vibration, and heat or cold.
The number, and degree of destruction of these tiny nerve fibers that occurs as a result of the breakdown of the microcirculation is difficult to assess. The symptomatic results however are all too real, and constant to those suffering from this condition.
The problem as it exists today for patients suffering from this condition is that is very difficult to quantify, and the treatments are not only very difficult to tolerate, but unfortunately do very little if anything to address the ultimate cause of the condition. That being the breakdown of the micro-circulation feeding the nerves.
In my next article I will address what the latest research is demonstrating as one potential, non-invasive treatment for neuropathy.
NEUROPATHY Part II
In my last article on the subject of neuropathy I described to you one school of thought regarding the reasons that neuropathy occurs, and the current forms of medical treatment for the condition once it has been diagnosed.
In this installment I would like to give you some information to ponder regarding the most recent research into the alternative treatments for neuropathy that are gaining traction. These new treatments address the underlying cause of the condition, namely the compromise of the micro-circulation which feeds the nerves. These altered circulation patterns cause a degradation of the nerves, and their ultimate breakdown and destruction.
So, how can we improve this micro-circulation? The process that we want to stimulate in the treatment of neuropathy must improve the underlying cause of the condition, and stimulate resolution of this cause. The process which must be stimulated is called "angiogenesis". This simply means creating new microscopic circulation.
How is this angiogenesis process accomplished? One method is through the amplification of a substance called nitric acid (N.O.) in the existing blood vessels. The increase in quantity of this naturally occurring substance stimulates the growth of new blood vessels. The so called "micro-circulatory bed" increases as a result of increasing the N.O. level.
How do we activate the production of N.O.? There are a few methods through which you can accomplish this increase. One of which is to use nitroglycerin. Not many of us have access to this substance, nor would we use it if we did. But, understanding how nitroglycerin produces changes in the blood vessels gives us a good concept of how this whole N.O. thing really works. Let's just take a look at the use of nitroglycerin in medicine today. This drug is most commonly used with patients who suffer from angina. Angina is a condition in which an individual experiences chest pain, which we all know can be an indicator that you may be having a heart attack. In the case of a person who suffers from angina however the chest pain is due to a "vasospasm" in one of the coronary arteries. A vasospasm is a temporary compromise of the blood flow though one of the arteries that feed the heart. This occurs as a result of an excessive contraction, or spasm of these arteries. When nitroglycerin is placed under the tongue in a patient experiencing angina, there is an immediate increase in the N.O. in the arteries, and this causes the arteries to relax and expand their diameter. This in turn allows more blood to flow through the arteries and in the case of a person suffering from an angina attack, to experience a relatively rapid resolution of symptoms.
Another method to increase N.O. levels is to consume a natural substance called L-arginine. L-arginine is a naturally occurring amino acid. It is normally produced in the inner lining of the existing blood vessels. L-arginine is a supplement that I have used in my office for many years to assist patients with a variety of cardiovascular problems. The L-arginine however must be of the correct type and quality. I have had many patients in my office who had been using an L-arginine supplement, but were not getting the results that they expected. The reason was that they were not using the correct form of L-arginine. The form that I use in the Center is highly absorbable, and in combination with other amino acids in the same supplement complex is actually able to regenerate itself.
L-Arginine in the form of Pro-arginine is one component of my treatment protocol that I recommend for all of my patients suffering from neuropathy. L-arginine is not only a naturally occurring substance, it is actually produced by the body. Unfortunately, as we age the quantity that the body produces progressively diminishes.
This is one of the newly documented treatment protocols for patients suffering from any form of neuropathy that I am incorporating into my treatment plans with all of my neuropathy patients.
I will be covering more on the other treatment parameters that I am using with my patients suffering from neuropathy, in my next installment to this neuropathy series of articles.