Neuropathy is a growing epidemic around the world, in America, in Texas, and right here at home in Houston.
How bad is it? Consider the following:
- Obesity is one of the strongest predictors of neuropathic damage in the feet and ankles, and one out of every 3 adult Texans is obese. (That’s up from 1 in 10 less than 30 years ago). Texas has the 14th worst adult obesity rate in the United States, and 15th worst teenage obesity rate.
- Houston, for all its many charms, is one of the least walkable major cities in the United States due to its sprawling, suburban-like nature and driving culture. Only 1.5% of the population walks or bikes to work—and even getting to the nearest park or bike path requires driving there first for many Houstonians.
- Diabetes is another major risk factor for neuropathy, and it’s estimated that (if current trends hold) more than 1 in 5 Houstonians could have diabetes by 2040. That could mean as many as 2 million cases in the metro area alone.
These and other risk factors—including sugary diets, lack of exercise, or even chemotherapy drugs—all contribute to the emergence of what many doctors are calling a “silent epidemic”: peripheral neuropathy.
The Silent Epidemic
Now, what do we mean by “silent” epidemic? A couple of things come to mind.
First, even though peripheral neuropathy is extremely common and extremely damaging to health—even deadly—it isn’t talked about nearly as much as related conditions like diabetes or obesity, and isn’t as well understood by the general public.
How common is it? According to current estimates from the Cleveland Clinic, approximately a quarter to a third of all Americans will develop it to some degree at some point in their lives—and that includes as many as 70 percent of all people with diabetes.
As Americans get more sedentary and eat a diet more and more filled with sugars and carbs, these numbers continue to rise.
Bottom line: Without the loss of sensation in the extremities associated with neuropathy, those complications aren’t nearly as likely. You’d notice them earlier and they’d hurt a lot more, so you’re more likely to get the treatment you need in a timely fashion.
And that’s the other thing about neuropathy being a “silent” epidemic. Once your condition has become severe, the nerves literally go silent. They’ve become so damaged that they can no longer send and receive signals—their link to the brain permanently cut off.
And it’s a “slow, insidious process,” to borrow the words of my colleague and friend Richard Jacoby, author of Sugar Crush. Symptoms progress over years or even decades, through distinct stages:
- Intermittent pain and numbness. You may go days or even months without noticeable discomfort, but it does happen periodically.
- Intermittent pain and numbness that becomes more frequent and intense.
- Pain becomes constant or severe enough to disrupt sleep or require management with medications.
- Pain begins to subside—not because you’re getting better, but because the nerve damage has become severe enough to start fully breaking the link with your central nervous system.
- Total loss of sensation.
That “silence” at the end is definitely not a good sign. Although you might have less day-to-day pain, your risk of an infection or amputation skyrockets—and there’s almost no chance for you to repair and regain what you’ve already lost.
But There’s Hope for Houston—and For You
Obviously, the biggest and most important way to combat the rising epidemic of neuropathy at home and across the globe is prevention:
- Changing our lifestyle habits by making exercise and activity a greater priority in day-to-day living.
- Changing our diets to drastically reduce or eliminate sugar, as the health risks of the modern American diet become more widely understood and recognized.
- Being more mindful of how intermittent tingling or pain may indicate the earliest stages of a life-threatening condition—and that quick action may be able to not only stop it in its tracks, but reverse the damage that’s already occurred.
That said, there have been huge strides and major breakthroughs in terms of the medical treatment options for neuropathy in just the last few decades. And no one in Houston has kept more up-to-date with advances in extremity nerve care than Dr. Robert Parker at Parker Foot & Ankle and the Neuropathy Care Center of Houston.
We’ve even developed our own breakthrough program that, we believe, offers our patients suffering from neuropathic pain the best possible chance of returning to a full, active, pain-free lifestyle.
This program includes CET, electro-cell signalling treatments (proven to be up to 87 percent effective in various studies) that combine both local anesthetic blocks to dilate the vessels supplying the circulation to the nerves and electrical impulses to stimulate damaged nerves. It includes Class IV laser therapy to stimulate healing and improve sensory function. We’ll even give you a copy of Sugar Crush to help you kick your sugar habit, and thus remove the primary cause of nerve damage in the vast majority of cases.
A third-generation Houstonian himself, Dr. Parker has dedicated his career to helping the people of the region (and beyond) overcome their neuropathy and nerve damage. To schedule an appointment with us, please call (855) 465-2577 today. You can also request an appointment online using the contact form below.