Healthy Foot Blog/Peripheral Neuropathy/Eliminate Risk Factors For Peripheral Neuropathy

Eliminate Risk Factors For Peripheral Neuropathy

Monday, October 30, 2023

When it comes to peripheral neuropathy, there are certain physical traits or habits that can lead to a higher probability of having nerve damage.  These are called "risk factors" and should be eliminated (or at least improved) as much as possible when creating a Foundation for treating neuropathy.

Although there are many risk factors that could be addressed, in the two decades of helping individuals with peripheral neuropathy we have found 4 that are most important:

  • Diabetes: Diabetes is one of the most common causes of peripheral neuropathy. In higher quantities, sugar can be toxic to the nerves. In fact, high blood sugars can sugar coat the cells or even create direct damage to the neuron (nerve cell).  The good news: aggressive management of blood sugars will usually improve the neuropathy and decrease continued nerve damage.  This can be done with medications or even just with diet changes.  If you have diabetes, aggressive management is imperative!
  • Peripheral Vascular Disease: Another common cause for peripheral neuropathy is blood flow. If you have poor blood flow (peripheral vascular disease), the nerves can get damage from insufficient oxygen or other nutrients.  When you get damage to the smallest blood vessels supplying the nerves, you can get cell death...significantly aggravating the problem.  The aggressive management of blood flow through exercise, treatment (surgical or medication) and other methods can reduce the chance of nerve damage and usually will improve symptoms as well.  If you have peripheral vascular disease, talk with your doctor about ways to improve blood flow.
  • Obesity: Health in the United States and around the world has been declining.  Based on the latest data, 39.6% of US adults are obese. This means that nearly 4 in 10 adults in the United States have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher.  Some side-effects of obesity include abnormal control of blood sugars, increased stress on the tissues and even direct nerve damage.   It is therefore important that you improve your overall health through obesity management.  If you are obese, it is important to modify your food habits and increase exercise levels to reduce high risk obesity.
  • Smoking or Alcohol Use: Another common cause of peripheral neuropathy is toxicity. Two of the most toxic substances to the nerves include tobacco and alcohol.  Alcohol can damage the nerves directly (and commonly does), while smoking will directly contract the blood vessels causing decreased blood flow to the nerves (see PVD above). Elimination of smoking and significant reduction (or elimination) of alcohol can improve peripheral neuropathy or prevent the damage that could cause it (or worsen it). If you are a smoker or you drink alcohol regularly, it will be highly beneficial to both overall health and nerve health if these habits are eliminated.   

As you manage these risk factors, you improve the overall health status of the body and ultimately facilitate the management and treatment of peripheral neuropathy.  Without the reduction or elimination of these risks, your neuropathy will be more difficult to manage!

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