Tag Archives: Balance

THE DOCTORS 101 CHRONIC SYMPTOMS & CONDITIONS 21: PERIPHERAL NEUROPATHY

Peripheral Neuropathy is a common problem, and almost a quarter of the population will eventually suffer from it. It is very common in diabetes and metabolic syndrome, alcoholism, and in cancer therapy.

Even getting older is a risk; almost 10% of individuals 65 years old have some symptoms. There are more than 100 different types of peripheral neuropathy, and often it is just one feature of a primary illness.

Sometimes there is no known cause, such as in 2 of my older friends. I have a diminished vibratory sense in my feet, which causes me no noticeable problem. The longer nerves are more likely to be involved, except for the rare sensory ganglionopathy which is symptomatic of some cancers ( a “paraneoplastic disorder”) , some infections and autoimmune diseases.

When the sensory ganglia are involved, the numbness, tingling or pain can be more central, such as in the face or upper arm. There are 3 types of nerves that can be involved in peripheral neuropathy; Sensory, Motor and autonomic.

The sensory nerves deal with sensations, such as hot, cold, touch, pain, tingling, and numbness. Motor nerve involvement results in weakness or paralysis of an arm, leg or other area under Voluntary control. The autonomic nervous system coordinates activities beyond voluntary control, such as sweating, salivation, food propulsion and heart rate, which can be activated or inhibited.

The symptoms of neuropathy depend upon the type of nerve involved. Balance is a complex ability that can be disturbed by a lack of proper sensory nerve function (Position sense or proprioception) motor weakness, vision or coordination which involve higher centers.

The medical evaluation of peripheral neuropathy begins with a family practitioner or internist who does a detailed history, asking about such things as diet, medications, alcohol consumption, and injuries. Vitamin intake is important, but can be overdone.

Peripheral nerve symptoms can actually be caused by excessive B6, pyridoxine. The upper limit is 100 Mg.. A physical exam checks for weakness, sensory problems, reflexes and balance. Blood tests may reveal diabetic, kidney, liver, thyroid or immune problems problems.

A major disorder associated with neuropathy may be revealed and pursued. If nothing turns up, and the neuropathy is significant, referral may be needed to a neurologist, or other appropriate specialist. Many specialized tests and treatments may be needed.

Even with the best of care, a specific “cure” may not be found. Peripheral neuropathy can often be avoided by a healthy lifestyle.

–Dr. C.

Article on Peripheral Neuropathy

FALLS AMONG THE ELDERLY: CONDITIONS & PREVENTION

Falling down is common on both ends of the Human lifespan. Little kids are always falling down, but there isn’t much energy to dissipate, since their mass is small and they don’t have far to fall. Moreover, their bones are pliable.

The Elderly also fall, increasingly, as they age. They have a lot further to fall, and their bones are often brittle and osteoporotic. Injury is quite common, they often break a hip, and may slide into a peogressive deterioration leading to their demise..

Ordinary walking, a “normal gait”, is a very complex activity and requires a lot of information and coordination by the nervous system.

VISION is critical, as you are often navigating through a minefield of stairs, rug edges, slippery objects, lamp cords, tubes and pets. Cataracts may be a problem to be corrected. Multifocal glasses can be a factor.

HEARING can warn of certain hazards or warnings and is important. A FINE SENSE OF TOUCH is required to give you cues as you are walking. Peripheral neuropathy can make walking difficult.

PROPRIOCEPTION, the positional sense of where your extremities are located in space, is a sense we take for granted, but which may deteriorate in time. Proprioception is very important for a normal Gait. The inner ear, with it’s semicircular canals and vestibular apparatus is necessary for proper BALANCE.

Balance can be PRACTICED in a number of ways, like standing on one leg, or merely WALKING a lot. These MULTIPLE SENSES must be COORDINATED by the Thalamus, Corpus Striatum, medulla, Cerebellum, and Cerebral Cortex and instructions sent to the muscles of your Legs, Arms, back and abdomen.

It is mandatory to keep these muscles, your Heart and your body, STRONG and FIT. Factors that make you more likely to have a fall are mostly the reverse of the above, and are called RISK FACTORS.

  • –Previous Falls are the best predictor. More than 2 or 3 in a year is worrisome.
  • –Balance Impairment is best treated by practice.
  • –Decreased Muscle strength. –Visual impairment.
  • –Polypharmacy (more than 4 prescription Meds), or a Psychoactive drug (look up)
  • –Gait impairment, Walking difficulty.
  • –Depression, which is often treated by antidepressants or sleeping pills- Psychoactive drugs.
  • –Dizziness or orthostatic hypotension, which causes a drop in blood pressure on standing. and a number of other problems, often a function of age.

PREVENTION of falls is of course better than treatment of the resulting INJURY. Working on your HEALTH will help the INTRINSIC causes of falls, and that is what we have been discussing.

Preventing the EXTRINSIC causes of falls means working on: –Improving the household safety by putting in railings, getting rid of throw rugs, clutter, and maybe pets( a good friend went into a downward spiral after tripping over his Dog.

Adjusting or eliminating psychoactive drugs and antihypertensive drugs (which often include the beta blockers which worsen orthostatic hypotension.

Interestingly, VITAMIN D supplements were mentioned in 2 references I saw. Apparently Vitamin D reduces falls by increasing MUSCLE STRENGTH.

Please refer to the following Canadian article for a more complete discussion.

–Dr. C.