In all forms of neuropathy, there is abnormal stimulation of nerves or damage that results in pain. Peripheral nerves are sensitive conduits that carry impulses from the extremities back to the central nervous system (i.e., the spinal cord and brain). Impulses are transmitted along nerves by changes in the electrical charge of the cell membrane caused by movement of ions such as sodium, potassium, and calcium. Impulses are transmitted between nerves by neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine and substance P, which is responsible for transmitting pain impulses. For protection, most nerves are covered with a thin sheath called myelin, which is made from choline and lipids. The myelin functions like the rubber wrapping around an electrical cord: it insulates the nerve fibers and prevents abnormal transmissions.
Depending on the nature of the specific neuropathy, some part of this system breaks down. In diabetic neuropathy, for example, there is a change in the microvascular network that supplies the nerve with nutrients. This lack of blood supply and nutrients causes the nerve to function abnormally. Diabetic neuropathy tends to occur in more than one nerve area (this condition is called polyneuropathy) and may cause loss of sensation and pain that typically worsens at night. In severe cases, diabetics can suffer from a kind of neuropathy called autonomic neuropathy. In this case, the autonomic nervous system, which controls automatic body functions, is affected with possibly serious consequences, including gastrointestinal problems, bladder-emptying problems, abnormal heart rhythms, and even sudden death (El-Atat FA et al 2004).
The following supplements have been shown to reduce the pain associated with neuropathy:
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