This time of year many children are waiting for Christmas, Santa, and snow. I love snow! There is something magical about those big, fluffy white designs flying through the cold air. Unfortunately for many folks, snow is dreaded instead of anticipated. They fear falling on snow covered sidewalks and steps due to their neuropathy, a nerve disorder that causes pain and numbness in the hands and feet. Neuropathy can be caused by traumatic injury, infection or metabolic diseases such as diabetes.
As a provider of services to older adults, I always worried about the uncovered hands and faces of our consumers suffering damage in the cold months. Neuropathy can cause pain but it also can steal the ability to feel pain caused by heat and cold.
According to the Neuropathy Association, peripheral neuropathy is one of the most common diseases in the U.S. with over 20 million Americans affected by it. There are over 100 known types of peripheral neuropathy, each with its own characteristics and causes. Peripheral neuropathy or “nerve damage” disrupts the body’s ability to communicate with its muscles, skin, joints or internal organs. The association describes neuropathy “like the body’s electrical wiring system breaking down, causing numbness, pain, weakness and poor coordination.” It can occur at any age, but is most common among adults 55 and older.
Neuropathy affects a variety of nerves, including:
- Sensory nerves that receive feelings such as heat, pain or touch
- Motor nerves that control how your muscles move
- Autonomic nerves that control blood pressure, heart rate, digestion and bladder function
Some people have hands that tingle with pain all day and night while others have fingers that freeze (lock) into uncomfortable positions for long periods of time. Whatever the symptoms, cold temperatures and beautiful snowy days can make life difficult for those with this chronic condition.
So dress warmly, get plenty of Vitamin A and B-12 to protect your nerves, eat a nutritionally balanced diet, and control your blood sugars as preventative measures for peripheral neuropathy. Then get outside and enjoy the miracle of snow!
If you want to learn more about peripheral neuropathy go to the following sites: