Sunday, January 10, 2010

No Longer New To Neuropathy...

January 1999 was a significant month for me. I was diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage). I had never heard of PN. I could not pronounce it. I could not spell it. But I had it.

Symptoms included numbness in my feet, sometimes tingling or sometimes burning like walking barefoot on a hot sandy beach. Once in a while my calves got into the act, feeling numb, etc. Then tired feet and calves emerged. I felt like I had just walked 15 miles slightly uphill on pins and needles.

I first wrote about this on my web site in November 1999. You can find a lot of neuropathy information on the site at More than ten years since that diagnosis, I can state that the symptoms persist. However, I feel better because my medication is working.

I first began noticing numb toes in 1996. I told my wife that the 2nd and 3rd toes on each foot felt numb. I thought no more about it, figuring encroaching old age (I was 61) might be the culprit.

Then in 1998, the numbness eased from just toes to the entirety of both feet. Sometimes I could detect numbness in my fingers and even on my face, including the tip of my nose. We assumed I was experiencing pinched nerves in my back.

Off to the doctors I went, one at a time. My primary physician referred me to a neurologist who ordered a barrage of tests. I had a CAT scan, MRI and an EMG in addition to more routine tests to see if I was alive. The neurologist recommended back surgery as soon as possible even though he said my symptoms did not match his diagnosis. I went for a second opinion.

This next doctor was a neurosurgeon. I wasn't sure what a "neuro" was but I knew this doctor could remove it if I elected to go that route. I went through another series of tests including "iodine in the spine." This is my affectionate term for another "more distinct" MRI.

These doctors could find nothing wrong with my back. So I started over. I went to a brand new neurologist, but one that my family had known in years past.

This doctor did his own nerve conduction test (EMG) and told me that I had peripheral neuropathy. I told him that my first and only language was English. He explained about nerve damage due to numerous causes. Several additional tests ruled out diabetes and other common causes for PN. This left me diagnosed as having idiopathic peripheral neuropathy. Idiopathic means, “cause unknown.”

This doctor put me on a medication called Neurontin. I worked up to 800 mg four times per day. Dosages vary from case to case so PN patients should check with their doctors as to medication and dosage.

I located a great Neuropathy Support Group in Houston. We met every other month. We had speakers who were experts in areas of neuropathy. Then I joined the National Neuropathy Association. You can learn more about this organization at

I also found a great book on PN written by John A. Senneff. The title of his book is “Numb Toes and Aching Soles: Coping With Peripheral Neuropathy,” published by Medpress. I learned a great deal about PN from this book. See

I want to add that spouse support is vital. My wife has been by my side all the while. She has been a great help in so many ways.

In the past ten years I have learned a lot about peripheral neuropathy. And yes, I can spell it and pronounce it. And yes, I still have it.

Winston Hamby


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