If you’ve been diagnosed with neuropathy, learn more about this condition, including causes, risk factors, and how Medicare coverage works.
What is neuropathy?
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “neuropathy” refers generally to damage to your body’s nervous system. A common form of neuropathy is peripheral neuropathy, a condition that forms when your peripheral nervous system is damaged. Your peripheral nerves send signals between your brain and spinal cord to the rest of your body. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, these nerves help you process information about the outside world and affect functions such as muscle movement, certain metabolic processes, and even the ability to feel pain or temperature.
These important communication pathways are disrupted in a person with peripheral neuropathy.
Neuropathy causes and risk factors
According to the NIH, peripheral neuropathy may be caused by:
- Physical injury or trauma (for example, from a car accident or surgery)
- Metabolic issues
- Genetic conditions
- Being exposed to toxins
- Excessive alcohol use
- Certain diseases, such as diabetes mellitus or rheumatoid arthritis
If you have peripheral neuropathy, your symptoms will depend on which specific nerves were affected. According to the NIH, peripheral neuropathy symptoms may include:
- Sharp, throbbing pain or cramping
- Numbness in your hands and feet
- Heightened sensitivity to touch
- Inability to feel pain or temperature changes
- Lack of muscle coordination
- Muscle weakness
If you’ve been diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy, it’s important for your doctor to figure out the underlying cause. According to the NIH, peripheral nerves may have the ability to regenerate if the nerve cell hasn’t died, so it’s possible to regain function if you can fix the underlying issue.
If you have health factors that put you at risk for peripheral neuropathy, such as rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes, then managing those conditions is one of the most important things you can do to prevent neuropathy. Neuropathy affects up to 50% of diabetes type 2 patients over the long term, according to the American Diabetes Association.
If you have already been diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy, lifestyle changes may minimize nerve damage and give your nerves a chance to heal, according to the NIH. This might include:
- Eating a healthy diet
- Limiting alcohol
- Quitting smoking
- Managing blood sugar levels (for diabetes patients)
According to the Mayo Clinic, your doctor may also prescribe medications to help you manage pain from your neuropathy, such as antidepressants, narcotics, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Other types of treatment may include physical therapy to strengthen your muscles or surgery to reduce pressure on your nerves.
Medicare coverage of neuropathy
Medicare Part A and Part B cover medically necessary hospital and outpatient services if you need peripheral neuropathy treatment, which may include physician services, physical therapy, or surgery. Part B covers certain screenings, such as foot exams and eye exams, if you have diabetes and could be at risk for complications from peripheral neuropathy.
If your doctor prescribes medications to treat your neuropathy, Medicare Part D covers prescription drugs through either a stand-alone Medicare Prescription Drug Plan or a Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug plan.
Would you like help finding a Medicare plan that may assist with neuropathy treatment costs? Feel free to ask me for help. Use the links to receive a personalized email with plan options or set up a phone appointment at your convenience. Just click on the Get Quotes button on this page to get started.