Peripheral neuropathy happens when a person’s peripheral nerves, the ones that send signals from the brain and spinal cord to other parts of the body, are damaged. There are lots of things that can cause peripheral neuropathy, but one of the most common is diabetes. Understanding the condition and what you can do to help your aging relative live with it could improve their lives.
Peripheral Neuropathy Basics
The symptoms a person has from peripheral neuropathy depends on which nerves are affected. In many cases, people describe having pain in their hands or feet that feels tingling, burning, or stabbing.
Other symptoms of peripheral neuropathy include:
- Tingling, numbness, or pain that starts gradually. It often spreads up the arms or legs.
- Being sensitive to touch.
- Reduced coordination.
- Weakened muscles.
- Paralysis that may occur if motor nerves are impacted.
Because treatment is often more effective if peripheral neuropathy is diagnosed early, it’s important that your aging relative sees a doctor when symptoms are first noticed.
Tips for Managing Peripheral Neuropathy
Managing peripheral neuropathy is often a matter of making lifestyle changes that prevent the condition from getting worse.
Some changes you can help the older adult make are:
Control Blood Sugar: High and uncontrolled blood sugar levels can damage nerves. Keeping blood sugar within target ranges can reduce the risk of further damage to nerves by 60 percent.
Exercise Regularly: Regular physical activity can improve pain from neuropathy and help to control blood sugar levels.
Stop Smoking: Smoking affects circulation, which can make neuropathy worse.
Eat Well: Proper nutrition improves overall health.
Use Over the Counter Pain Relievers: Pain relievers can reduce the pain. However, be sure you talk to the senior’s doctor to make sure the pain relievers won’t interact with other medications they are taking.
Care for Feet: The numbness caused by peripheral neuropathy can result in wounds on the feet going unnoticed, which can lead to infections. Thoroughly wash and dry the senior’s feet each day and look for blisters, cuts, or other wounds. Treat them promptly to prevent infection.
Take a Warm Bath: The warm water of a bath can be soothing when pain is particularly bad. Just be sure to check the water temperature as the numbness makes it difficult to sense water that is too hot.
If your loved one suffers from peripheral neuropathy, homecare can help. Homecare can remind diabetic seniors to check their blood sugar levels and take medications. Homecare providers can also cook healthy meals and encourage them to increase physical activity. Homecare can even assist with foot care and ensuring older adults get safely in and out of the bath tub.