Stress and Neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy involves the nerves transporting information from the periphery to the central nervous system (spinal cord and brain), in both ways. For better understanding, peripheral nerves tell the brain about the sensation of heat or cold in their zone (each nerve has a corresponding zone) and the brain responds, for example, in the face of extreme heat, with a movement away from that zone, so as to avoid a burn. As we see, the information is complex and in both directions. These nerves can be affected by various causes such as diabetes, viruses, metabolic problems, autoimmune diseases, etc.
Whatever the cause of peripheral neuropathy on any patient, stress has a clear negative effect on the same. When we say stress, we mean stress in the fairly broad sense and, it can be emotional, psychological or physical (i.e. post-op). While it is not always possible to avoid all sources of stress, it is better to do it as much as possible. However, there is an important point to note is that stress is one of the peripheral neuropathy effects. If a person feels pain, surely gets stressed. If someone suffers from constant numbness, that also may cause stress.
Therefore, if we consider stress as one of the peripheral neuropathy effects, but at the same time stress is an aggravating element, it is fundamental to break with that circle of recurrence. The basic aim is to fight against all stress causing external sources, as much as possible. On the other hand, it is essential the patient learns to deal with the stress caused by peripheral neuropathy, as to break with that negative feedback. We cannot isolate a patient from stressing environment, but it is possible to learn how to deal with it.
A well cared patient, who clearly understands its illness (without implying to become a specialist, but to learn as much about the issue), will also learn to handle stress in other ways, both external and its own situation. It is fundamental in that regard to provide all the help a patient might require. If we accomplish that, life quality will be infinitely better and dealing with peripheral neuropathy will be much less complex.
Dean S. Lewis