It’s estimated that more than 20 million people in the United States suffer from some form of peripheral neuropathy, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Neuropathy in feet and legs is a type of peripheral neuropathy and can even be a symptom of fibromyalgia.
A recently updated study estimates it at about 2.4 percent of the population and 8 percent of the elderly. In the United Kingdom, almost 1 in 10 people aged 55 or over are affected by peripheral neuropathy.
That number may be even higher as those with neuropathy symptoms don’t always do tests for the disease. In addition, current tests do not look for all forms of neuropathy.
What is Neuropathy?
The peripheral nervous system is a complex communication network that sends signals between the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) and the other parts of the body. For example, peripheral nerves send this information to the central nervous system when your feet are cold, or your neck hurts.
Neuropathy, also known as peripheral neuropathy, is a type of nerve damage that typically affects the feet, legs, and sometimes the hands and arms.
The common symptoms of peripheral neuropathy are:
- muscle weakness
- burning, stabbing, or shooting pain in the affected areas
- and numbness and tingling (like “pins and needles”) in the feet or hands
You may also experience loss of balance, pain while walking, swollen feet, loss of muscle tone in the hands and feet, problems sensing movement or position, or feeling vibrations and touch.
The symptoms depend on the severity of damage and the type of nerve fibers affected. Though they are rarely life-threatening, symptoms can become disabling.
Sometimes, they may improve independently, but seeing a neurologist is best. If peripheral neuropathy is diagnosed sooner, the risk of limiting the damage and preventing further complications is much higher.
What Causes Neuropathy?
The most common cause of neuropathy is diabetes – it affects nearly 50% of adults with diabetes. In fact, neuropathy can prove to be the first symptom of diabetes. This is because the high blood sugar levels associated with diabetes can damage the nerves, leading to pain, foot ulcers, and even lower limb amputation.
Other causes of neuropathy include:
- Physical injuries to the nerves
- Nutritional or vitamin deficiencies (such as Vitamin B12 deficiency and excess vitamin B6)
- Viral infections (chickenpox and shingles, HIV, Lyme disease, Hepatitis C, herpes simplex, etc.)
- Autoimmune diseases (lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.)
- Toxic substances in the blood from kidney and liver disorders
- Certain cancers and benign tumors
- Side effects of certain antibiotics, cardiovascular medications, and chemotherapy drugs
- Hormonal imbalances, etc.
What Are Treatments for Neuropathy?
Treatments for neuropathy depend on the type and severity of nerve damage, as well as the symptoms and location of the pain. Your doctor may prescribe medication for nerve pain such as antidepressants, anticonvulsants, skin creams, patches, or sprays like lidocaine.
However, these meds help with the pain but do not affect the underlying nerve damage.
Over-the-counter meds like acetaminophen and ibuprofen may not successfully treat most nerve pain. In addition, there are side effects to every medication to consider, especially when it comes to long-term use.
Instead of focusing on treating the pain, it is far more effective to focus on the treatment of the underlying disease process. Correcting underlying causes can help the nerves recover or regenerate, resulting in the neuropathy resolving independently.
You can improve nerve health by avoiding toxic exposures, correcting vitamin deficiencies, exercising, and eating a balanced diet. Additionally, you can try different non-invasive treatments, such as red and near-infrared therapy.
Smokers are at a higher risk for developing neuropathy, especially those who are diabetic. A 2017 study proves not only that peripheral neuropathy is a leading factor of smoking but also that the possibility of neuropathic pain increases as the duration of smoking and addiction level increase.
Reduce Alcohol Intake
Similarly to smoking, long-term excessive drinking of alcohol can lead to nerve damage known as alcoholic neuropathy. According to a 2012 study, alcoholic peripheral neuropathy dramatically decreases the quality of life and life span.
Correct Vitamin Deficiencies
Nutritional deficiencies can be treated with supplementation of depleted vitamins or minerals. The well-researched alternative options for the treatment of peripheral neuropathy include benfotiamine, alpha-lipoic acid, acetyl-L-carnitine, methylcobalamin, vitamin E, Myo-inositol, N-acetylcysteine, and topical capsaicin.
Exercise can have a broad range of benefits when it comes to treating symptoms associated with peripheral neuropathy. Those include improved balance, muscle strength, mobility, nerve function, pain reduction, numbness, etc.
Physiotherapy helps restore movement and function and can also reduce risk of injury or illness in the future.
Eat a Balanced Diet
A balanced diet includes at least 6 to 8 glasses of water and 5 portions of fruits and vegetables a day, high-fiber foods such as potatoes, bread, rice or pasta, dairy or dairy alternatives, proteins such as beans, finish, eggs, or meat, and no saturated oils.
Maintaining a strict control of blood glucose levels, blood pressure and cholesterol can prevent the problems caused by peripheral neuropathy and help avoid further nerve damage.
Take Good Care of Your Feet
Regularly checking and taking care of your feet is especially crucial for diabetics. This means having your feet examined at every doctor’s visit. Regularly, it means checking and washing every day, gently smoothing corns and calluses, wearing shoes and socks at all times, protecting them from hot and cold, and keeping the blood flowing to your feet.
Try LED Light Therapy
Red to near infrared LEDs are also known as photobiomodulation, red light therapy, or LED light therapy. It has been shown to promote mitochondrial oxidative metabolism. There’s evidence that it also improves nerve regeneration and increases the levels of antioxidants in the chamber fluid.
This treatment uses a device emitting red and near-infrared light. Light of these specific frequencies reduces inflammation and swelling, supports blood vessels and blood circulation, and increases the formation of new cells and the number of mitochondria within already existing cells.
How to Use Red and Near-Infrared Therapy for Neuropathy in Legs and Feet?
To treat your feet and legs and get the most out of your red and near-infrared sessions, it is best that you use a device that allows for targeting specific areas. That is why portable, ergonomic photobiomodulation devices are possibly your best option.
FlexBeam is created with that very purpose in mind – it is wearable and flexible and allows for easy application. You can wrap it around your ankles or feet, position it along your legs, and much more. Even though it is primarily created for targeted red and near-infrared therapy, it also has some systemic effects. It is best to explore the protocols for appropriate use on feel and legs, or simply ask the support for help.
How Often Can You Use FlexBeam LED Light Therapy?
You can safely use FlexBeam LED light therapy as to support your body in dealing with neuropathy every day. However, making regular pauses is advised. Even though using FlexBeam for too long won’t hurt you, it can reduce its effectiveness drastically. Depending on particular neuropathy concerns you may want to treat, you can select the length and settings of the sessions.
What Are the Side Effects of LED Light Therapy?
There are no negative side effects to red and near-infrared therapy. Treatments with LED red and near infrared light devices are gentle, non-invasive, and suitable for all skin types. They don’t emit UV rays, involve any heat or damage to the skin, cause skin cancer or increase chances of getting it.
Can You Use LED Light Therapy for Neuropathy at Home?
Nowadays, LED light therapy for neuropathy is easily available in the comfort of your own home. You can enjoy its benefits without the need for in-office procedures. Getting your own FlexBeam will save you time and money when it comes to red and near-infrared therapy.