drugs are called chemotherapy. Chemotherapy
drugs are toxic chemicals (poisons) that attack fast growing cells
(rapidly dividing cells). The
theory behind using these toxins is that it will
destroy the fast growing cancer cells before it does
too much damage to normal cells.
Hair is a quickly
growing cell and this is the reason that hair loss is a common
side effect of chemotherapy.
Bone marrow produces
fast growing cells. Normally, when blood cells wear
out in the body, they are replaced by new ones from
the bone marrow. When the chemotherapy drugs
damage these fast growing cells, it can cause a low blood count,
which can result in other side
effects such as fatigue, headaches, and chills.
It is sometimes even necessary to do a blood
from chemotherapy drugs
Chemotherapy is hardest on the nervous system due
to the fact that nerve cells are more sensitive than
The nervous system transmits
information between the central nervous system (brain
and spinal cord) and the rest of the body. It is
designed to transmit feeling such as touch and
temperature. It delivers messages from
sight; it delivers messages to the muscles to get them
cells are more sensitive to these toxins then other
cells, they are often affected
and can be damaged easily. This may also
be the reason for cognitive problems following
chemotherapy, also known as "chemo
fog" or "chemo-brain".
exposure to the chemotherapy drugs, the cells that
responsible for producing myelin, the fatty substance
that helps insulate and protect nerve conducting
fibers, can become damaged.
changes in chemotherapy patients can develop months or
years after treatment. The
onset of these symptoms are variable. Some drugs
may cause symptoms during or immediately after the
first dose, and some have a delayed onset of symptoms,
up to several weeks, months, or even years after the
severity of these symptoms is related to the
cumulative dosage of the drug received.
someone with pre-existing neuropathy (no matter what the
cause) may be at risk for more severe and long lasting
Symptoms of Post
Loss of feeling in
the hands and feet can make it hard to pick up small
objects and cause clumsiness and difficulty walking.
Some people with nerve damage first notice a
"pins and needles" feeling, not unlike when
an arm or leg "falls asleep". Foot nerve damage after chemo is very
common which results in stabbing pain and numbness.
As motor nerves are
the most sensitive to toxins, this nerve damage
may make you feel clumsy and cause difficulty in daily
activities such as opening jars, fastening buttons, or
even squeezing toothpaste tubes. Loss of
balance and coordination is also due to this
Per the American Cancer Society,
"Chemo-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) is caused by the
chemotherapy drugs used in cancer treatment."
(Neuropathy is also sometimes called paraesthesia or
"The symptoms or signs of CIPN depend mostly on
which nerves are involved. The most common symptoms
tingling (or a "pins and needles"
trouble with tripping and stumbling while
loss of feeling (numbness)
decreased or no reflexes
increased sensitivity to temperature (usually
cold) or pressure, so that things hurt more than
trouble passing urine
blood pressure changes
"CIPN often affects both sides of the body the
same way; for example, the toes of both feet. It can
cause severe pain and can affect your ability to do
everyday things like walk, write, button your shirt,
or pick up a coin. If it gets very bad it can cause
very serious problems like changes in your heart rate,
trouble breathing, paralysis, or organ failure"
This is the reason that medical doctors have to
keep close watch over their patients when receiving
these long-term side effects of chemotherapy?
When a person develops neuropathy due to
chemotherapy, the oncologist will prescribe drugs to
cover up the symptoms and the patient will get a
pamphlet entitled “Living with Neuropathy”. There is
hope that it will get better after the chemo is
quite often, the damaged cell will continue to
deteriorate and the symptoms will get worse. The only
way to correctly manage this chronic neuropathy is to
address the real causes, not the symptoms.
Can this be Reversed?
are many different treatments for Neuropathy. Making
sure that anything might be contributing to the neuropathy
needs to be addressed.
Pros: There are several drug treatments for neuropathy. There are
medications such as Lyrica and Cymbalta that are given cover up or block
the pain. Lyrica, is an anti-seizure medication. It is used for neuropathy as
it stops the nerves from talking to each other so you don't feel the pain.
Cymbalta is a anti-depressant which is
used because it lowers a person's awareness and thus their awareness of the
pain. One drug occasionally used is Prednisone and also Elavil.
Cons: You have to continue to take the drugs to
the body of vital nutrients and there is a problem withdrawing from it (see Prednisone)
Amitriptyline (Elavil) it lowers
the awareness of the nerve damage but as with all medications, they have side effects that don't enhance your
Additionally, Cymbalta as an anti-depressant can very often
be difficult to get off
with out side effects. For info on Cymbalta
Long term these drugs can cause more damage due to side effects and deficiencies it can create.
If you are taking any mediation that has a side effect of
neuropathy, you should talk to your doctor to see if there is an alternative
Pros: Combines a footbath with an electrical current. Claims
to open up nerve channels and stimulate circulation to the
affected area. It claims to stimulate the nearby calf muscles to contract and relax, enhancing the local blood flow to bring fresh nutrients to the nerves and help remove accumulated toxins.
No information on how it would address neuropathy in other areas of the
body. It also states that it will rebuild nerves, but not how. See Rebuilder
Cons: Cost. The cheapest model is
$550. They now recommend going to a doctor to have them use the Rebuilder
on you. Inconclusive if this works for
everyone or why electric current will "rebuild" nerves except for
increasing circulation There are many anti-oxidants which will also increase
circulation.. It also states it sends electric current up the foot through the
sciatic nerve and down again so it apparently addresses foot neuropathy only.
Pros: The ancient Chinese practice of acupuncture
has been known to help with the symptoms of neuropathy. There is
apparently an ability to improve circulation with this method that would give
similar relief. There is also acupressure which works on the same
principles as acupuncture. For more information go to Acupuncture
Cons: Acupuncture sometimes does not help with
neuropathy. You also have to continue to get treatments.
Alpha lipoic acid:
Pros: This is as an anti-oxidant which will help protect the nerves
so no further damage is done to the body. It
can help with the symptoms. In order to help it needs to be taken with Alpha
Lipoic Acid. There is evidence that they work together well in helping the body
use nutrients to repair the nerves, but the vital B vitamins need to be taken
Pros: They will cover up the symptoms of
neuropathy similar to drugs and can make you temporarily feel better, you must
continue to take them. The body
doesn't use them to build healthy nerves.
Cons: There are problems with herbs. They can
interact with any other medications that you are taking. They can have side
effects. Herbs are similar to drugs in so far as (in therapeutic dosages as
found in the herbs that you can buy) they make the body do what it wouldn't
normally do. While you can use herbs in your salad and in tea without problems,
when you take herbs in a supplement, they are extracts which are far stronger
dosages. Herbs should be taken separately as if there is a problem, you can
isolate what herb is causing the problem. The combination of herbs found in
some supplements prohibit you from doing that.
Remember, herbs are not vitamins. They are natural
substances, but they aren't the vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids &
amino acids that the body needs to function, create energy and to repair
Herbs can make your neuropathy feel better, but aren't
used by the body to repair the nerves. Thus, you need to keep taking them to
continue the relief. There are some herbs which shouldn't be taken more than a
few months like Feverfew or Ashwagandha.
When taking any herbs, check with your pharmacist.
Pharmacies have databases where they can check for interactions and side
Glutamine & B6:
Pros: Although no scientific evidence, some people with chemo
induced neuropathy have said they had some relief.
Cons: There is, however, some
concern that it may stimulate tumor growth.
Anodyne Therapy: Infrared light to increase circulation and stimulate
production of nitric acid. It is supposed to relax the arteries and
eliminate free radicals. Pads are put over the injured areas. Pain is
supposed to be relieved with increased circulation and more nitric oxide in the
blood. Can treat common injuries.
Con: Relieves the symptoms
but needs to be continued for relief.
Homeopathic Formula: Homeopathy can give
temporary neuropathic pain relief without side effects or interactions with
Cons: They relieve the symptoms but
doesn't address the
Topical creams: There are many different
creams available that will bring relief from neuropathy pain. They can be
applied as needed. Capsaicin is a common ingredient. it is used to
relieve pain for arthritis, muscle pain, joint pain, as well as nerve
pain. It can address the inflammation.
Cons: They relieve but you must continue to use it for relief. Doesn't
work for everyone.
Cold Laser Treatment or Low Level Laser Therapy: It
will give relief from pain. It is non-thermal and won't burn the
surrounding area. It is trying to increase cellular activity. The laser delivers electric pulses to the target area which delivers a jolt
that matches the pulse at which the body perceives pain. It claims to
create a reduction in pain by causing the production of natural pain killer
Cons: Again doesn't address the actual cause of
the pain, so is relief only.
None of the above treatments,
will build healthy nerves. You can cover up the symptoms and you can
increase circulation and you can make a person feel less pain, etc., but you want to build healthy
Rebuilding Healthy Nerves:
Pros: Healthy sensory nerves means that they are
not painful. Healthy nerves means that they communicate and don't send wrong signals such as burning, hot and cold,
tingling when there is no reason for it. Healthy motor nerves means that
they relay messages from the brain to the muscle so that they move
correctly. Nerves need to be healthy to function properly.
The body needs specific nutrients
(vitamins) to be able to build healthy nerves.
Cons: It doesn't give immediate or temporary relief, but it
does address the actual problem and creates healthy nerves.
We have used our best judgment in compiling this information. The Food and Drug Administration may not have evaluated the information presented. Any reference to a specific product is for your information only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease