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Neuropathies

Painful tingling or numbness in the hands, face or feet is caused by malfunctioning nerves and could be a sign of poor diet, diabetes or other issues.

By and |

Tags: Pain, Neuropathy

In some situations, tingling is good. But in others, a little tingling can cause a whole lot of problems.

Numbness and pain in the nerves—primarily in the hands, face and feet—are called neuropathies. They’re usually associated with a tingling sensation that feels like you’ve hit your funny bone or your legs have fallen asleep.

This pins-and-needles feeling comes from a malfunction of your nerves, either peripheral nerves, like the ones in your feet and hands. Or it could be central ones, like your spinal cord.

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Neuropathies

Think of your nerves as electrical cables covered by protective sheaths. When something causes the sheath to constrict, it puts pressure on the inside wires and cables. This disruption of messaging (“conducting electricity”) causes the nerves to short-circuit, giving you tingles.

What causes the constriction? Many things, such as chemotherapy, diabetes or nutritional deficiency.

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If you don’t break the cycle, you could experience a domino effect. The pain could worsen and eventually become debilitating. The numbness could also mean you’re more prone to infections. Think of it. If you cut your foot on a seashell and didn’t feel it, you might let the cut get dirty and infected.

Neuropathies could also lead to bladder and bowel pain, numbness and itching. Sounds dreadful. OK, enough with the downers. On the positive side, you can help improve the symptoms with exercise, avoiding secondhand smoke and following the general guidelines of healthy living. Here are some specific tactics:

  • If you feel numbness in different body parts, don’t assume it’s your only symptom. Neuropathies are a sign of something else happening in your body. You’ll need a test (like for diabetes) to find the root of the cause. A doctor can prescribe medication that may help relieve pain. This includes anti-seizure drugs and some classes of antidepressants.
  • If you have neuropathy, you can strengthen the surrounding sheath to improve the messages traveling from the brain to your limbs. The best vitamins for strengthening the sheath are B12, B6 and folic acid. It should take months to regenerate this protective covering. Lipoic acid (300 mg) plus acetyl-L-carnitine (1,000 mg twice daily) is usually helpful for nerve pain, too.
  • The nerves have sheaths on them, like sausage casings. An extreme approach is to have surgery that cuts the sheath to free the nerve compression. See a doctor to find out if you’re a candidate. The doctor will tap your nerves to see if it re-creates the symptoms.
  • It’s vital to protect your feet and hands when you’re still diagnosing the problem. This will decrease your risk of developing (and not detecting) infections. Gardening? Wear your gloves. Around the beach, keep your sandals or water shoes on. Never stick your feet or hands in places you wouldn’t want your kids to go. Lastly, work on controlling your blood sugar. Diabetes is a major cause of neuropathies.

MORE: Exercise to Control Diabetes

 

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