Neuropathy is a painful condition that occurs when nerve damage takes place in certain areas of the body. And while the disease can affect one or more areas, it often impacts the hands or feet.
While many of the causes of neuropathy are now known, there are very few treatments out there that can offer much relief, at least without further side effects of their own.
With the different variants of neuropathy that affect millions of Americans, many are now considering CBD oil as a potential treatment for the disease because of its safety profile and its therapeutic, pain-relieving potential.
In this article, we are going to take a look at the condition itself and how CBD could prove to be a possible new treatment for long-suffering patients.
First of All: What Is Neuropathy?
Every individual on the planet has a central nervous system (CNS). The central nervous system consists of the brain and spinal cord. It is called the central nervous system because, much like a powerful computer, it functions as a central processing unit, gathering important information from all over the body. This system works hand in hand with our peripheral nervous system which essentially carries the nerve signals from the CNS to different parts of our body.
Unlike our CNS, which is protected by a number of factors such as the vertebral column, skull, and blood-brain barrier, the peripheral nervous system is left pretty exposed to a range of things – from toxins and bacteria to injury.
If damage occurs in the peripheral nervous system, then there is a high chance that peripheral neuropathy may occur. Neuropathy can manifest in both the upper and lower extremities, but patients and doctors most often report neuropathy of the feet.
What Are the Causes of Neuropathy?
Nerve damage can occur due to a variety of factors, and it almost always comes as a result of another underlying condition. One of the most common causes of neuropathy is diabetes; in fact, up to 70% of diabetes sufferers have some sort of nerve damage! This is due to high blood sugar levels which over time damage the cells in the body, leading to diabetic polyneuropathy.
Patients with neuropathic damage from diabetes are also at high risk of amputation, changes in their foot shape over time, fungal infections and ulcerations.
While many may experience pain, they may also experience a reduction in sensation in their feet, leading to injury and disease.
However, diabetes is not the only condition that leads to this disease. Here are some other potential causes for neuropathy in the feet:
- Excess alcohol intake
- Physical injury to the nerves
- Certain viral infections such as shingles or HIV
- Medication side effects
- Low vitamin levels such as B12
- Chronic liver disease
- Chronic kidney disease
- Some types of cancer such as lymphoma
- Rheumatoid arthritis
What Are the Symptoms and Side Effects of Neuropathy?
With so many variations of neuropathy, it makes sense that the side effects and symptoms of the disease differ depending on which part of the body it appears in. What changes most radically, however, is the speed at which these symptoms develop. The speed will also vary depending on the area that is affected and the type of neuropathy you have.
In addition to peripheral neuropathy, here are the other main kinds of neuropathy:
- Proximal neuropathy (damage to the nerves that control movement)
- Autonomic neuropathy (damage to the nerves that control certain body processes such as blood pressure, digestion, bladder function)
- Focal Neuropathy (damage to nerves most often in the head, but sometimes the torso and legs)
It is worth mentioning that sufferers of peripheral neuropathy (also known as diabetic nerve pain as well as distal polyneuropathy) can also have one or more of the aforementioned types of conditions.
The most common signs of neuropathy include:
- Numbness of the affected areas
- Tingling sensations
- Burning sensation
- Stabbing or shooting pains
- Loss of balance and coordination
- Weakened muscles (this often affects the feet the most)
- Lessened feeling and pain reception in affected areas
- Muscle cramps
- Twitching muscles
- Muscle wasting
- Low blood pressure
- Difficulty walking or standing
Many of these symptoms can vary from very mild to disabling. And although this condition isn’t life-threatening, it can adversely impact a patient’s quality of life.
How Is Neuropathy Currently Treated?
As most cases of neuropathy occur as a result of another condition, most sufferers are already on some form of medication. However, when neuropathy is added to the mix, it can lead not only to the debilitating effects of the condition but also to serious cases of depression and anxiety.
Currently, most medications for this condition exist in the form of pain relievers and in some cases anti-inflammatory drugs. However, most of these medications don’t address the life-altering and chronic pain that comes with having neuropathy.
To this end, doctors often prescribe opioids for patients diagnosed with neuropathy, fueling in part the ongoing opioid crisis. Opioids can be incredibly addictive. In fact, many heroin users cite opioids as being the gateway to their addictions.
In addition to opioids, doctors and medical experts often prescribe a slew of other medications, including antidepressants, topical treatments, anti-seizure drugs, and physiotherapy.
Many of these treatments are expensive, high-risk, and serve only to treat the symptoms and not the underlying causes of neuropathy.
Other treatments can include topical ointments derived from capsaicin, a compound often from in hot peppers and spices. This treatment option can cause discomfort and can often injure the skin.
Lidocaine patches are also a common treatment and can induce dizziness. Some may experience irritation at the site of the application. Other treatments include alpha-lipoic acid, though it can raise blood sugar levels (often already a problem with diabetic patients) and cause other symptoms such as nausea and rash.
CBD for Neuropathy in the Feet
While neuropathy can strike any point in the body, it is most common in the feet. There are over 20 million Americans currently suffering from this disorder and current treatments do not offer long-term relief. However, recent studies indicate that CBD oil may be a therapeutic option for neuropathy patients.
CBD is a major component of cannabis. Although cannabis has been front-and-center in regard to legislation, CBD derived from hemp was legalized for use after the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. CBD is distinctly different from whole-plant cannabis. Whole-plant cannabis features THC, another major compound. THC is responsible for the psychoactive effects found in cannabis.
CBD does not negatively affect cognition and may be very beneficial in helping patients with neuropathy. It has been indicated as having potent anti-inflammatory properties, a boon to sufferers of this disorder that frequently experience swelling and inflammation. CBD may possess other therapeutic elements, including some anti-anxiety and anti-emetic (vomiting) properties, as well as pain-relieving capabilities.
Additionally, CBD oil may offer an alternative to the high cost and many side effects of prescription drugs. CBD has been well-received by many health agencies, including the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO states that CBD “is generally well-tolerated with a good safety profile.”
Final Thoughts on CBD Oil for Neuropathy in Feet
Neuropathic foot pain is incredibly serious and can be debilitating. As a chronic condition, it can detrimentally affect an individual’s quality of life. Patients not only experience physiological deficits but may suffer from a loss of confidence, depression, and anxiety.
Neuropathy has no reported cure and traditional medications and treatments may not always be effective.
Typical medications such as anti-seizure drugs and antidepressants can have side effects, including dizziness, swelling, and nausea.
Recent studies have returned promising results regarding CBD as an effective therapeutic option. Unlike costly opioids and other drugs, CBD does not appear to cause extreme side effects, does not affect cognition, and lacks psychoactive capabilities.
CBD also has some anti-inflammatory properties. This is key in quelling many of the symptoms associated with neuropathy. CBD may also reduce muscle spasms, a feature of neuropathic damage which often manifests in painful, uncontrolled muscle twitches.
Studies regarding CBD oil and neuropathy are forthcoming, but current speculation and initial studies indicate that CBD may be a great start in the fight against neuropathic pain. This is echoed in the testimony of users with chronic neuropathic pain who have chronicled a higher quality of life since consuming CBD.
CBD could prove to be cost-effective as well. The current price of antidepressants and other drugs can far exceed the financial ability of patients. Many may also find that the side effects associated with their use could be just as disabling.
CBD oil is also tasteless and odorless and can be consumed in a variety of forms, including topically, in tinctures, or in capsules. For patients sensitive to certain methods of medicinal consumption, this could prove to be a great benefit.
CBD may not be a cure, but it appears to have great potential to help those suffering from the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy. Future studies on CBD could help shape the chronic neuropathic pain narrative and provide patients with a way to manage their pain more effectively.