Nerve damage can sneak up on you

Medipost Pharmacy

Media release

Nerve damage can sneak up on you

Pharmacist’s advice for preventing and managing peripheral neuropathy

Tuesday, 27 February 2024, An uncomfortable numb feeling, pins and needles, or stabbing pains may not immediately strike you as a reason to visit your doctor. A pharmacist of South Africa’s original nationwide courier pharmacy explains how chronic nerve damage can develop, particularly if it is not identified and treated early.

“Our nerves are a network of fibres that send messages between the brain and organs, including the heart, stomach, and lungs, for normal involuntary functioning. They also communicate voluntary muscle movement and reaction to sensations throughout the body. These fibres can become damaged in various ways, including traumatic injuries, infections, metabolic conditions such as diabetes, inherited causes or exposure to toxins,” says pharmacist Tanya Buys of Medipost Pharmacy.

“For those who have nerve damage and as a protective measure for those who don’t, B vitamins are recommended for maintaining a healthy nervous system, as it is not always easy to get the quantities we need in the food we eat alone. A deficiency in vitamins B1, B6 and B12 can result in lasting nerve damage, so it is important to speak to your doctor or pharmacist regularly about your individual supplementation needs,” she says.

Nerve damage may cause weakness, loss of feeling and pain, usually described as a stabbing, burning or tingling feeling, and the area could be sensitive to touch. For some people, ordinary pain relievers such as paracetamol may not be effective, and their doctor may prescribe medication for managing neuropathic pain specifically.

“The underlying cause and degree of nerve damage determines the treatment required. Multiple sclerosis is an example of a chronic condition where permanent nerve damage can progress rapidly if left untreated. Early diagnosis by a neurologist is essential to start managing the condition in its early stages, to help slow or prevent further nerve damage, and improve the person’s quality of life,” Buys says.

“In the case of an injury or infection, the onset of nerve damage may be sudden. Depending on the degree of damage, it may heal within a few days or weeks but sometimes may require surgery to repair. With mild damage the doctor may suggest alternative treatments like acupuncture or massage therapy to assist in the healing process.

“Shingles is a viral condition where nerve damage creates hypersensitivity and a burning sensation. It usually presents itself as a painful rash with blisters on one side of the face or body. Along with prescription treatment, Lysine and Zinc have anti-viral properties that may assist in healing,” she says.

“For many people, however, neuropathy progresses over months or creeps up slowly over years, often starting from the feet or fingers working its way up towards other muscles and organs.”

According to Buys, people with diabetes should be especially vigilant as they are at higher risk of nerve damage and its complications, particularly if their blood sugar levels are not well controlled. “The effects of uncontrolled diabetes may not be felt immediately, but the long-term effects are very real. Taking frequent blood sugar readings is recommended to monitor blood glucose levels during the day as part of a healthy diabetic treatment plan,” she says.

Type 1 diabetics requiring insulin treatment may benefit from continuous glucose monitoring [CGM] sensors that give regular blood sugar readings without frequent painful finger pricking. “Doctors may prescribe insulin pumps to patients requiring automated 24-hour insulin control, including small children and patients struggling to keep their glucose levels under control, which can help prevent complications like nerve damage,” Buys explains.

Medipost Pharmacy dispenses and delivers chronic and specialised medication, as well as non-prescription medications, supplements, medical devices, wound care aids and other health supplies to any address in South Africa. Visit https://shop.medipost.co.za/ and enquire using the chatbot or via info@medipost.co.za.

“It’s important to take the signs and risk factors of peripheral neuropathy seriously because nerve damage becomes more debilitating once muscle movement starts to be affected. A person with nerve damage is also more at risk of secondary infections and severe injuries because the message of pain, pressure or heat in the affected area of their body is lost or delayed in reaching the brain,” she warns.

“It is therefore essential that people with peripheral nerve damage or their caregivers regularly check for any wounds because the person may not otherwise realise they have a cut or sore, which could become infected if not treated promptly. Diabetics, in particular, should inspect their feet and toes for any injury to prevent potentially serious complications.”

Buys advises that smoking and alcohol should be avoided because the toxins impair your body’s natural healing abilities, while physical activity should be increased to help improve circulation and maintain mobility. “It is also important to keep the extremities warm using protective clothing, and a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel, which can help to keep out the cold at bedtime in winter,” she says.

As well as dispensing medicines and health aids, Medipost Pharmacy also offers telephonic clinical pharmacy advice to patients in all official South African languages and can assist with registering PMB conditions, including diabetes, helping to conserve medical scheme members’ day-to-day benefits.

“At Medipost, we believe in providing comprehensive support to our patients. That’s why we offer telephonic pharmacy support in all official South African languages to help people get the best out of their treatment. Medipost Pharmacy serves public and private patients and can also assist medical scheme members in registering Prescribed Minimum Benefits (PMB) conditions, which helps conserve their day-to-day benefits.”

Ends

 For media enquiries, contact MNA at the contact details listed below.

 Issued by:                                           Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Medipost Pharmacy

For media enquiries contact:     Martina Nicholson, Meggan Saville or Estene Lotriet-Vorster

Telephone:                                        (011) 469 3016

Email:                                                   connect@mnapr.co.za, martina@mnapr.co.za, meggan@mnapr.co.zaor estene@mnapr.co.za