Tag Archives: Neurologist

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

THE DOCTORS 101 CHRONIC SYMPTOMS & CONDITIONS #7: TENSION HEADACHES

Headache has been with us since Neolithic times, and has caused enough distress to induce our ancestors to scrape holes in their skulls, perhaps to let out the causative Evil Spirits, or maybe a subdural hematoma.

When I was a practicing Allergist, i was sent many headache patients by other Doctors.This was, presumably, because the referring physician thought that their patients had “sinus” headaches. In fact, free standing headache does not commonly come from the sinuses.

Most headaches thought due to ‘sinuses” are in fact “vascular “ headaches. The theory of vascular headaches is that the average diet contains many chemicals that are active on blood vessels. Tyramine, degraded proteins and caffeine are examples. These chemicals, working on the blood vessels, cause irritation and pain. It follows,then, that avoidance of these chemicals would relieve the vascular headaches.

“Vascular headache”, and it’s severe cousin, Migraine headache, is now included under PRIMARY HEADACHE, which also includes Tension headache, and a variety of less common diagnoses. But it is still useful for Treatment, which is why I use the term.

My treatment was a fresh, “health food” diet which avoided preserved foods such as salami, sausages, sauerkraut, leftovers, cheeses, red wine and a variety of other foods likely to have degraded amino acids and Tyramine.

The “mold-free diet” was the published diet closest to listing the suspected foods. The benefit reported from the diet encouraged me to continue recommending it. Vascular headaches are essentially a mild variety of migraine headaches. The foods avoided in the “mold-free diet” are still, after several decades of progress still recognized as migraine triggers.

I encountered only one patient with BRAIN TUMOR in my practice. She had severe, unremitting, gradually increasing headaches over a 4 week period. I called a Neurologist, the type of doctor that treats most severe headaches, who informed me he had NEVER seen a patient with a brain tumor who presented with a headache only, so uncommon it is.

Tension Headaches are milder, and usually can be handled at home. These headaches are usually accompanied by tenderness in the muscles of the back of the neck, or in the temple region, and are brought on by stress.

Hypertension, if extremely high, can cause headache, and can be dangerous, but I never saw a case. Nor did I attend a patient with temporal arteritis, which can also be an emergency.

There are some “red flags” that indicate urgent need for evaluation:

  1. New headache in older patient
  2. New change in headache pattern, or progressively worsening headache
  3. Signs and symptoms of illness ( fever, stiff neck, rash).
  4. Headache triggered by cough or exertion.
  5. Headache in pregnancy or postpartum period
  6. First, worst Headache.
  7. New headaches with AIDS, compromised immunity, or cancer.
  8. Headaches accompanied by mental changes, weakness, or abnormal Neurological signs.

Selective medications are available for some headaches.

Preventative and abortive medications sometimes are helpful for migraine. Antidepressants, tryptans, beta blockers, and corticosteroids are medications best prescribed by specialists.

The tendency to use pain killers, especially narcotics, must be tempered. Frequent use can create additional problems, like ADDICTION. The CAUSE of the headache must be found, if possible, and specifically treated.

Of course, I did find patients with true SINUS HEADACHE, but the headache was accompanied by fever, tenderness over the sinuses, yellow nasal discharge, and other evidence of SINUSITIS, and went away when the infection was treated.

If you have a lot of headaches, and no “red flags” or “risk factors”, you might try a “mold free diet” for a few weeks. Your Nutrition and health would certainly not suffer. And you might have fewer headaches!

Please read the following article for a more complete discussion of this common and annoying problem.

–Dr. C..

Additional Information

DR. C’S MEDICINE CABINET: “FOLIC ACID” SUPPLEMENTS

Folic acid has a secure place in my medicine cabinet, and is there for one of the best reasons. In screening for possible causes for heart disease, my doctor ordered a HOMOCYSTEINE LEVEL. The Laboratory value came back elevated.

The treatment given was folic acid. Some background is necessary. Homocysteine is a rather toxic amino acid that can cause heart disease and neurological problems, among other things. If you do not get enough folic acid in your diet with green vegetables, legumes, nuts, eggs and the like (it is hard to be deficient with a good diet), your Homocysteine may become elevated.

You need folic acid to convert Homocysteine to the essential amino acid, Methionine. 10-15% of the population, and up to 30% of older people have elevated Homocysteine levels. Stiffness, slow gait, and heart disease can be related to these elevated levels.

Since I have a good diet, I assume that I have a weak form of an enzyme called Tetrahydrofolate Reductase, which is the rate limiting enzyme in converting Homocysteine to Methionine. A weak enzyme needs more folic acid to do its job. The MDR of Folic acid is 0.4 mg./day. I started supplementing with 1 mg. Daily, without effect on the Homocysteine level. I doubled the dose to 2 mg., and my blood level was still above the upper limits of normal, 15 micromoles/L.. I doubled it again to 4 mg., 2 mg. Twice daily.

Finally my level became normal at 10, This was a decade ago. Recently, I have been doing some research on Alzheimer’s Disease, because a Friend is losing her short term memory. I talked to a neurologist to see if a medical evaluation was mandatory, and found that he has recently BEEN GIVING FOLIC ACID supplements to his AD Patients.

Folic acid deficiency is now being suspected as being a factor in AD! This story is similar to the Vitamin D conundrum. Should I take Vitamin D or not? Am I a “believer” or not. The resolution is easy. You get a Vitamin D blood level.

The lab test will report “normal” if your level is above 20 ng,/ml. I prefer 50, which I achieve with 4000 i.u. Daily supplement. The NFL likes their players to be above 50 to be in best shape. The point is, take a measurement, and then decide.

If you chose to take a Folic acid supplement, I would suggest checking both your Folic acid blood level, and Homocysteine blood level as a reference.

Also, if you take folic (B9) supplements, you should also take extra B12, and B6, since they are involved in the same metabolic pathways. Balance is necessary in metabolism.

–Dr. C