Americans are suffering from peripheral neuropathy right now and many more are undiagnosed. We’ve discussed treatment of peripheral neuropathy with Dr. Kevin Polzin and below you will find the best of our conversation. The main theme is how technology, not pills Peripheral Neuropathy is not a well-known condition but approximately 50 million, is revolutionizing the treatment for this debilitating condition? This technology is cold laser therapy and is surprisingly effective for treating pain associated with peripheral neuropathy.
What is peripheral neuropathy?
Firstly, if you have it you know it. Peripheral means away from the center, away from the brain and spinal cord, neuropathy means nerve damage or death. So we are talking about very-very small nerve fibers, nerve endings that are subject to insult or injury and in the presence of poor circulation can become necrotic and die. So these are nerves that send information from the body to the brain and back again, commonly known as a glove and stocking disorder, the further away from the brain and spinal cord it is, these are the ones that are most effective.
What is life like for someone who is suffering from peripheral neuropathy?
Their quality of life actually is very low and the reason for that is that pain permeates every aspect of their existence. Their symptoms go in a continuum of starting with maybe cold feet and numbness and tingling, ramping up to pain and ache and burning and the feeling of maybe walking on feet filled with Novocain and culminating in totally abnormal sensations of shards of glass cutting your feet, feet on fire type burning, even the weight of a bed sheet is unbearable, yeah, so they lose sleep they lose balance; they are susceptive to falls and because we are generally talking about an elderly population, sometimes these falls can be fatal.
How does somebody get this in the first place?
We are talking about very-very small nerve endings, so there is quite a host of possible causes but, most commonly diabetics. The glucose spikes in diabetes can cause neuropathy, 50 percent estimated suffer; people that have had, subject to chemotherapy 100 percent generally can suffer from neuropathy. The things that would impact the spinal cord itself, spinal stenosis, herniated, bulging discs and most interestingly the most commonly prescribed drug in America, cholesterol medications or Statin drugs, estimated 30 percent of people on Statin drugs have neuropathy.
Early detection for this is difficult because we are not apt to go to the doctor when we are not hurting, so you don’t go to the doctor and say ‘hey doc can you make my feet when I walk or stand too much’, right. So what happens by the time you are already into the pain portion is when you enter the medical community, your primary doctor would likely recommend some pain medication, refer you to a neurologist or a podiatrist, where you are again offered more medication and when that doesn’t work you are just told to live with it. There is an alternative.
The alternative is a comprehensive diagnosis of the nerves in the legs, the feet, and the toes. Unlike other evaluations we are less interested in the cause of the damage and more to the extent and character of the small fiber nerve involvement; so if the examination does, in fact, reveal neuropathy then a very specific protocol that is laid out to rehabilitate and regenerate these small nerves and restore function and decrease discomfort; not using pills.
Dr. Kevin Polzin: Not using pills, in fact we use, literally hundreds of infrared and low-level light diodes that bathe the tissue in energy, saturating the tissue and improving the micro-circulation and the fine motor nerves.
In conjunction with clinics nationwide, the Bellevue Pain Institute conducted a study and determined that over 90 percent of our patients are completely satisfied with our protocols. At Bellevue Pain Institute, we are very careful to only accept people that we can help and we are doing so every day.
We asked one of those people what has it been like living with that pain prior to treatment?
Kerry Richter: Prior to treatment I would start my day off with Vicodin all the time, I’ve been off the Vicodin for about two weeks now where I haven’t had to use it, so it has helped me out considerably. I was in so much pain I was going to try anything to get out of it. I mean it was hard for me to make it through the day because I was having so much pain.
It is really quite fascinating that within the first several treatments sometimes less that six, seven treatments, patients say, ‘wow, I believe this is working’, at about the tenth session mark we do a comprehensive reevaluation and compare the initial evaluation to that to really document objectively the improvement and most people are done in a couple of months.
Physically we can see a difference we see a decrease in the swelling, many people have such poor circulation, the swelling pools in their feet and right away that’s one of the things we certainly see.
Are there medications that help this condition?
There is a small family of epilepsy drugs, Gabapentin, Neurontin, Lyrica, Topamax, these are all seizure medications but, they are very good at is blocking pain reception in the brain so much like this Lego block fits perfectly in the one above it fills their pain receptor sites in your brain so you feel better. The epileptic medication doesn’t cure the nerves of the foot. These drugs given for peripheral neuropathy really haven’t changed in over 15 years. And anyone looking for answers about neuropathy pain should know that this new therapy can be helpful, it is non-invasive, painless and there are no drugs involved.