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Neuropathy

Posted Jan 14 2009 8:34pm

Neuropathy is a big problem for many people with myeloma. The word neuropathy is a broad term that refers to damage to the peripheral nerves. Damage can be to the motor, sensory or autonomic nerves.

Neuropathy symptoms include numbness, tingling, feelings of heat or cold, altered balance, and pain that is sharp or burning. The diagnosis can be made by a nerve conduction study, but this is not usually necessary.

Neuropathy is either inherited or acquired. Example of inherited conditions include Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, CDIP, the muscular dystrophies,pernicious anemia, and others.

Acquired neuropathy has many causes, most commonly diabetes. Infections such as leprosy, syphillis, and HIV also cause neuropathy. Alcohol causes neuropathy in some alcoholics. I see several in my primary care practice.

Other less common causes include nutritional deficiencies, hypothyroidism, renal failure, radiation therapy, pesticides, and other chemicals.

Drugs used in cancer treatment most notably platinum compounds, taxanes, vinca alkaloids, interferon, thalidomide, Revlimid, and Velcade all cause neuropathy. Many persons with myleloma have been treated with more than one of these chemicals. Richard has had vincristine (vinca alkaloid), Revlimid, Thalidomide, and Velcade. He has significant neuropathy with pain, numbness, sensitivity to heat and cold, and altered balance.

Some cancers themselves cause neuropathy including those of the lung, breast, ovary, prostate, and myeloma and lymphoma.

Unfortunately, most neuropathy from cancer or cancer treatment is not reversible. There may be improvement with time in some cases.
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