As you or someone close to you are suffering from Neuropathy, at some point in time, you have found yourself with a diagnosis that has had no solid answers accompanied with it. You have asked many questions like, “What can I do to get rid of this pain?”, “How long will this last?”, or “Will my Neuropathy get worse?”. Following these questions, you probably received very few answers and were told that there is no cure for Neuropathy. Yet, you were given a treatment option that could offer some relief. Then when that treatment option failed, you were given another option in attempt to give you relief. Each time, you found yourself desperate for a treatment plan that would work and give you back your quality of life. In this chapter, we will explore many of the conventional treatment options and discover why they have not been successful.
Let’s dive into the conventional medications that are given to patient's for neuropathy.
Initially, when Neuropathy is diagnosed, a patient may be prescribed Medications like Gabapentin, Lyrica, or Cymbalta. These medications are designed as a pacifier, if you will, for your brain. They give your brain a calming effect that lessons the receptor response for the symptoms of neuropathy. In other words, a patient cannot feel the destruction of the nerve or the ongoing progressive damage.
Gabapentin, is an anticonvulsant medication commonly used to treat partial seizures, neuropathic pain, hot flashes, and restless legs syndrome. It is recommended as one of a number of first-line medications for the treatment of neuropathic pain caused by diabetic neuropathy, postherpetic neuralgia, and central neuropathic pain. Only about 15% of those given gabapentin for diabetic neuropathy or postherpetic neuralgia have a measurable sign of “temporary” relief.
Common side effects for Gabapentin include sleepiness, fatigue, drowsiness, ataxia (lack of coordination of voluntary muscle movement), tremors, peripheral edema (swelling of the extremities), nystagmus (involuntary eye movement), and dizziness. Gabapentin may also produce sexual dysfunction in some patients, symptoms of which may include loss of libido, inability to reach orgasm, and erectile dysfunction. Serious side effects include an increased risk of suicide, aggressive behavior, and drug reactions. It is unclear if it is safe during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Lower doses are recommended in those with kidney disease associated with a low kidney function. Extended use can cause kidney problems due to possible accumulation and toxicity.
By now you probably feel like you are watching a TV commercial that has all of the disclosures about the medication that is being advertised. Let’s continue on to the next medication that is commonly prescribed.
Lyrica is a medication that is used to treat epilepsy, neuropathic pain, fibromyalgia, restless leg syndrome, and generalized anxiety disorder. Its use in epilepsy is as an add-on therapy for partial seizures. When used before surgery, it reduces pain but results in greater sedation and visual disturbances.
Common side effects of Lyrica include headache, dizziness, sleepiness, confusion, trouble with memory, poor coordination, dry mouth, problem with vision, and weight gain. Serious side effects may include angioedema, drug misuse, and an increased suicide risk. When Lyrica is taken at high doses over a long period of time, addiction may occur, but if taken at usual doses the risk is low.
It would be next to impossible for a Neuropathy patient not to be addicted to this medication. It is commonly prescribed for long term use and the dosage is increased as the pain levels increase.
Cymbalta is a medication that is used to treat major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, fibromyalgia, and neuropathic pain. It is taken by mouth. Common side effects include dry mouth, nausea, feeling tired, dizziness, agitation, sexual problems, and increased sweating. Severe side effects include an increased risk of suicide, serotonin syndrome, mania, and liver problems. Antidepressant withdrawal syndrome may occur if stopped. There are concerns that use during the latter part of pregnancy can harm the baby. It is a serotonin–norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor.
After learning more about the above medications, we have to ask ourselves why would a patient be prescribed an anti-convulsant, or anti-depressive drugs with a multitude of side effects for the treatment neuropathy? It appears that more harm is stemming from all of the side effects than far outweighs the “partial” benefits of the medications. In other words, “More harm than good!”
The New Oxford American Dictionary describes the term “treatment” as a session of medical care or the administration of a dose of medicine. Nowhere in that definition does it say the words “cure” or “healing”. Is it a treatment that you are seeking, or is it healing?
When Neuropathy is diagnosed do you think that these medications are going to fix your neuropathy? The simple answer is NO. If you want relief, then sure they might be able to give temporary relief. Remember, the key to success with neuropathy is doing what others are not! If everyone is taking medications and NEVER getting better what does that tell you?
Jode Dennis - Neuropathy Specialist
Dr. Thai DC