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Neuropathy Is More Common Than You May Think And It Is Underdiagnosed

1 month, 2 weeks ago

2230  0
Posted on May 10, 2024, 5 p.m.

Neuropathy is nerve damage that causes pain and numbness in the feet and hands, it can eventually lead to falls, infection, and amputation. According to a study recently published in Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, neuropathy is very common and underdiagnosed. 

"More than one-third of people with neuropathy experience sharp, prickling or shock-like pain, which increases their rates of depression and decreases quality of life," said study author Melissa A. Elafros, MD, PhD, of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. "People with neuropathy also have an increased risk of earlier death, even when you take into account other conditions they have, so identifying and treating people with or at risk for neuropathy is essential."

This study involved 169 participants with an average age of 58 years old, 69% of whom were Black, 67% had metabolic syndrome which has risk factors that are associated with neuropathy, and half had diabetes which can cause neuropathy. All of the participants were tested for distal symmetric polyneuropathy, and information about other health conditions was collected. 

The analysis revealed that 73% of the participants had neuropathy, of those 75% of them had not previously been diagnosed with the condition, and close to 60% of those with neuropathy were experiencing pain. Of those with neuropathy, 74% had metabolic syndrome compared to 54% of those who did not have neuropathy. 

After adjusting for a variety of other factors that could affect neuropathy, it was found that those with metabolic syndrome were more than four times more likely to have neuropathy than those who did not have metabolic syndrome. No relationship was found between low income and neuropathy. For race, Black people made up 60% of those with neuropathy and 91% of those without neuropathy and they were found to have a decreased risk of the condition. 

"The amount of people with neuropathy in this study, particularly undiagnosed neuropathy, was extraordinarily high with almost three-fourths of the study population," Elafros said. "This highlights the urgent need for interventions that improve diagnosis and management of this condition, as well as the need for managing risk factors that can lead to this condition." 

This study was not without limits, such as only being a snapshot in time, not following people to see who developed neuropathy over time, and it did not look at the reasons why people were not able to manage risk factors that could lead to neuropathy.

As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. 

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