“I’m sorry. There’s nothing more we can do.”
If you’ve been living with the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy for more than a little while, you may have grown to hate these words.
You may have heard them over and over, from specialist after specialist, alongside the same tired advice.
Take your medications.
Do your exercises.
Peripheral neuropathy cannot be reversed.
Meanwhile, your symptoms have probably slowly and steadily gotten worse over the past months and years. Your life is being taken away piece by piece. Maybe you can’t drive anymore. Maybe you had to cancel the yearly hiking trip. Maybe you’re always tired because the pain keeps you up at night.
Is there really nothing more that can be done? Just more EMGs, more nerve testing, more medications with nothing to show for it?
Is this all there is to look forward to?
No. Not anymore. The future is a lot brighter—and it’s happening right now, right here at Tucson Foot & Ankle.
Neuropathy can be reversed. And the sooner you seek our help, the better your odds.
A Little Background: What Is Peripheral Neuropathy?
Peripheral neuropathy is, simply put, a condition that progressively damages the healthy nerves of the peripheral nervous system—especially the thin, delicate nerves of the hands and feet.
The most common symptoms can broadly be categorized as “strange sensations.” In the earlier stages of neuropathy, you might feel pain that burns, tingles, freezes, or prickles on an intermittent basis. Over time, however, the pain gets more frequent and more intense—until it completely disappears.
(The inability to feel pain is not a good thing, mind you. It means that your nerves are so damaged that they’ve become numb—and consequently your risk of catastrophic injury, wounds, or amputation increases exponentially.)
Sensory issues are not the only possible symptoms, however. The peripheral nervous system also includes motor nerves, which are responsible for muscle control, and autonomic nerves, which are responsible for regulating body systems like digestion, body temperature, and blood pressure. Damage to these nerves can have far-ranging effects, including muscle weakness, coordination issues, digestion issues, and more.
But of course, the biggest frustration of neuropathy usually isn’t the symptoms themselves. It’s the fact that they prevent you from doing the things you love to do.
How We Are Changing the Game and Reversing Neuropathy
For years and years, the “book” on neuropathy was that, for the most part, it couldn’t be reversed. Lost nerve function would stay lost. The best you could hope for was manage the pain, treat the underlying causes, and try to keep your condition from getting worse.
Nerve tissue, to be sure, is extremely delicate. It has a much harder time healing and regenerating after damage than most other types of tissue. And until relatively recent breakthroughs in treatment technology, there really wasn’t much that could be done.
But the technology is changing. And Dr. Shih is one of a small but growing number of foot and ankle doctors who have specialized in nerve anatomy and function, including advanced training in advanced peripheral nerve surgery at the Dellon Institute. (Fewer than 300 doctors in the country have received this training.)
As a result, we have a lot more to offer than the standard medications. Treatment options include:
- Laser therapy. Advanced therapeutic lasers harness the energy of light to stimulate healing in body tissues, including nerves. Several beneficial biological processes are triggered, including reduction in swelling (which relieves pressure on nerves), increase flow of oxygen and nutrients, tissue regeneration, and more.
- Radiofrequency nerve ablation. This innovative technique allows us to target a specific nerve or group of nerves with an electrical current and effectively switch them off. It’s so precise that we can stop one damaged nerve from sending pain signals without any collateral damage to nearby nerves that are still functioning well.
- Guided cortisone injections. We combine cortisone injections with our in-office ultrasound device, and of course Dr. Shih’s extensive knowledge of nerve anatomy. This allows us to deliver the injections to precisely the correct location.
- Decompression surgery. As stated above, Dr. Shih is one of the few doctors in the United States trained in surgical decompression at the Dellon Institute. These advanced techniques can “free” a blocked or pinched nerve from a physical obstruction, allowing it to function more normally again.
As a result of these advancements, we can often do much more than just “manage” your condition. A significant proportion of our patients have seen a substantial reduction and reversal in their neuropathy symptoms—even those who have had neuropathy for years and seen several different specialists before us.
Every patient and case is different, of course. For one patient, laser therapy might be the best course of action. For another, decompression surgery. Because of our advanced training and multiple treatment options, we can tailor our care to meet your individual needs.
But what does that look like in real life?
It means our patients are out walking again. They’re driving again. They’re going hiking, fishing, and hunting. They’re able to return to the activities they used to love, because their neuropathy is no longer holding them back.
What’s the Catch?
Having said that, we don’t want to mislead you either. No treatment can be 100 percent guaranteed, and existing nerve damage may not be fully reversible. Individual results are going to vary.
What we can tell you, though, is that the results have been extremely encouraging for the majority of our patients—and more importantly, they absolutely blow the old treatments out of the water.
For some people—the luckiest ones—these advanced neuropathy treatments provide an almost complete reversal of symptoms and restoration of nerve function.
But even if that isn’t the case for you, the vast majority still experience a massive improvement—more than enough for patients to feel like they’ve finally gotten their lives back, and substantially reduce or even eliminate their reliance on medications to manage their neuropathy symptoms.
Neuropathy is reversible. We’ve seen it up close. Feel free to read some of our testimonials and view our testimonial videos if you don’t believe us.
Get your independence, your confidence, and your life back. If you’re suffering from peripheral neuropathy, give us a call at (520) 545-0202.
Poor Circulation to the FeetBlood flow to the feet and toes is already generally a lot lower than the core areas of your body. That’s one reason why fungal toenails, for example, can take so long to treat with oral antifungals. But diabetes makes the problem a whole lot worse. For starters, poor circulation can contribute to the nerve damage that occurs. But it can also independently produce further symptoms—cold sensations, swelling, joint pain, and constant muscle cramping being just a few. More crucially, though, poor circulation will greatly reduce the ability of your feet to close wounds, repair damaged tissue, and fight off infections. In other words, even small cuts and burst blisters on the soles of your feet could take weeks to properly heal. And if they get infected, the damage can spread to lower layers of skin, or even bone.
A Devastating One-Two PunchPoor circulation and peripheral neuropathy are big enough problems on their own. But when combined, they put diabetes sufferers at extreme risk. Say you accidentally cut the bottom of your foot. If you have healthy nerves, you’d probably feel it right away, then immediately clean, disinfect, and bandage the wound. But if you have peripheral neuropathy, you might not feel the cut at all. You might even walk on the injured foot all day without knowing any better—until you see your bloody sock that evening when you take your shoes off! Diabetes can take away both your foot injury warning system and your ability to fight infection and close wounds after they occur. That means if you aren’t checking your feet carefully every day, you might not even notice a severe problem until after a significant amount of damage has occurred. If you don’t address the injuries early and aggressively, they could become sores that just don’t heal—and ultimately get infected. And if the infection deepens and cannot be counteracted, you may end up requiring an amputation. In fact, more than 70,000 lower limb amputations are performed on people with diabetes every year in the United States alone. Diabetes is by far the No. 1 cause of non-traumatic lower limb amputations—and the sad truth is almost all of them are preventable!
So What Can You Do?As we said, most of the worst complications of diabetes can be prevented with proactive care. It isn’t difficult to do this, but it does require discipline and consistency!
- Examine your feet carefully at least once per day. Do this in a well-lit room, using a hand-held mirror if necessary. Check the entire foot (including the nails and between the toes!) for signs of injury or damage. If you spot an ulcer or other problem spot that isn’t getting better, give us a call.
- Wash and dry your feet thoroughly every day to minimize your risk of skin infections.
- Always wear proper, comfortable, well-fitting shoes when out and about. If neuropathy is severe, you should wear them indoors, too. We can also provide specially made diabetic shoes that protect your feet and can accommodate custom orthotics.
- Do your best to manage your blood sugar and diabetes as best you can. This includes diet and exercise, monitoring your glucose, and keeping regular appointments with your doctor.
- Keep regular appointments with your foot care doctor as well—that’s us! We offer a lot of tools to help you. That includes circulatory and nerve health screenings, diabetic shoes, custom orthotics, maintenance foot care, and more.
Don’t Wait to Ask for Help!No matter how far along you are on the path of diabetic foot complications, we can help you. But in severe cases, the existing damage is not always completely reversible. And the longer you wait, the greater your risk of an injury, wound, or infection that leads to a catastrophic change in your quality of life. So don’t wait until it’s too late! The earlier you see us, the better we can help you. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Shih, please call (520) 545-5717 today.
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2nd & 4th Tuesday of the Month:
8:00AM - 7:00PM