Peripheral neuropathy is a kind of nerve damage that can be caused by certain chemotherapy drugs. You may feel symptoms of neuropathy in your hands, fingers, feet, and toes. Symptoms such as tingling, numbness, burning, pain, cramping and constipation can be due to neuropathy. If you have these symptoms while taking chemotherapy, ask your doctor about treatments for peripheral neuropathy.
Treatments For Peripheral Neuropathy
If you develop some neuropathy during chemotherapy for breast cancer, it may be temporary and fade a few months after treatment ends. But if your neuropathy symptoms have been severe and you have been in treatment for more than six months, the tingling and pain of neuropathy may persist longer. In some cases, neuropathy can become permanent. There are treatments for peripheral neuropathy that can help reduce pain as well as other symptoms and make life easier for you.
Drugs For Peripheral Neuropathy Pain
If your doctor prescribes medications to help with your neuropathy, take them exactly as directed. Don't wait for the pain to get worse -- these medications work best when used before pain becomes sharp and intense.
- Steroids - for short-term pain relief
- Patches or creams - numbs the painful area
- Anti-depressants - given as smaller doses than are used for depression
- Anticonvulsants - used to help many types of nerve pain
- Opioids or Narcotics - for severe pain
Alternative Therapies For Neuropathy Symptoms
Acupunture helps ease neuropathy symptoms for many patients. Find a trained, experienced, certified acupuncturist to help you with neuropathy. Biofeedback is another alternative therapy, which helps you learn how to use your mind to control your body's responses. It may be used in conjunction with relaxation therapy or guided imagery. Physical and occupational therapy can make you stronger and more flexible as well as help you find ways to work around the symptoms of neuropathy.
Self-Help For Neuropathy
Here are some things you can do that will ease your neuropathy symptoms and improve the quality of your life during treatment and recovery. Start by consulting a nutritionist and create a healthy diet plan. Drop any extra weight, to take pressure off your feet and legs. Get some regular exercise and start gently so you don't aggravate your symptoms. Don't smoke, so your circulation can improve and healing of nerves and muscles can proceed quickly. Avoid alcohol -- it can increase your neuropathy symptoms as well as any depression you may be having. Be kind to your hands and feet -- wear protective gloves, socks, and shoes to avoid injuries. Use warm, not hot, water for washing dishes and taking baths to avoid stimulating your nerves. Give your nerves a chance to recover and regenerate.
Peripheral Neuropathy Caused By Chemotherapy. What happens if I get CIPN? American Cancer Society. Last Revised: 12/22/2009.
Peripheral Neuropathy Fact Sheet. What treatments are available? National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Last updated July 24, 2010.