Neuropathy is one of the most common medical problems you may not know about. Affecting close to 20 million Americans, peripheral neuropathy — nerve disease or damage — causes pain and suffering in the form of burning, tingling, numbness and pain.
“Neuropathy is caused when nerves no longer work correctly,” explains Dr. Amirhassan Bahreman, a board-certified neurologist affiliated with Sharp Grossmont Hospital. “It is commonly associated with diabetes, but diabetes is not the only cause.”
In fact, neuropathy can be caused by other chronic diseases and medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, infections or thyroid problems. Additional causes include:
- Exposure to toxins
- Certain medications
- Heavy alcohol use
- Vitamin B-12 deficiencies
- Genetic factors
- Trauma or overuse injuries
According to Dr. Bahreman, the brain is a “superhighway” of electrical signals. It processes and delivers millions of messages to and from your body every second.
When nerves become damaged, they are no longer able to correctly send impulses — or messages — to your body, which can cause pain and additional problems, such as:
- Balance and coordination issues
- Falls and possible fractures from falls
- Muscle cramps
- Decreased dexterity and strength
- Sleep problems
- Changes in sensitivity to hot and cold
- Loss of reflexes
“If left unchecked, neuropathy can have a devastating effect on your life,” says Dr. Bahreman. “It can impair your mobility as well as your ability to perform simple everyday tasks and care for yourself.”
Unfortunately, traditional treatments for neuropathy, which include prescription medications, have not offered long-term relief. Many neuropathy medications have unpleasant side effects and treat only the pain.
Other frequent recommendations, including nerve-blocking injections, orthotics and physical therapy, can be helpful, but do not offer long-lasting results. However, according to Dr. Bahreman, medical knowledge is growing and research discovers new options for the treatment of neuropathy daily.
“New research has provided a greater understanding of how nerves work and heal,” he says. “New technology has created increased treatment options, and we now believe that peripheral nerves can regenerate.”
One breakthrough is electronic signal treatment (EST). Electronic signals are safely transmitted to the body’s deep tissues through superficial electrode patches in multiple treatment sessions over an eight-to-12-week period. It is believed to create healthy change at the cellular level to promote cell membrane repair, reduce swelling and encourage cell healing, leading to nerve regeneration and hopefully recovery from different complications related to neuropathy.
“This development is exciting for both neuropathy sufferers and treatment providers,” says Dr. Bahreman. “Improvements are often noticeable in as few as three or four weeks and can effectively treat neuropathy for a much-improved quality of life.”
For the news media: To talk with Dr. Bahreman about treatment for neuropathy for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public affairs specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.