Have you ever injured your leg or ankle in a sport and had no sensation or mobility afterward? Hurt your knee then felt prickling sensations even when there was no ligament tear? Slept on an arm and awakened with a numb hand? Sat too long with your legs crossed and ended up with either numbness or a prickling sensation?
This is what many people with peripheral neuropathy experience daily, which is often left unheeded.
Numbness and tingling are just common symptoms of this condition, which involves damage to one or several nerves outside the brain and spinal cord. Effects may include debilitating pain, stinging, swelling, burning, itching, muscle weakness, twitching, loss of sensation (manhid), hypersensitivity to touch (allodynia) and lack of coordination.
Chances are that the disorder afflicts millions of Filipinos and their cases remain unreported.
Disease of the nerves
“Neuropathy is a disease of the nerves,” says Dr. Gio Barangan, medical director of Merck Philippines.
“The major cause in the Philippines is diabetes. When patients are diagnosed with diabetes, there has already been a reduced absorption of vitamins, particularly of B12. Alcoholic patients also suffer from reduced absorption of Vitamin B. Nanginginig sila. (Their joints quiver). In the emergency room, a drunkard with a heart problem is given a high dose of Vitamin B1.”
Neuropathy can also be caused by trauma, injury, putting too much pressure on the nerves or staying in one position too long. If the cause can be corrected through proper nutrition, peripheral nerves can renew slowly and patients can get well.
“The nerve is like electric current and the brain works like Meralco. The speed of delivering the signal from the brain and spinal cord down to the smaller nerves is impaired when there is neuropathy,” says Barangan.
Most doctors recommend Vitamin B complex, which improves nerve functions.
“You need to create a new line of nerves so there won’t be the symptoms. Everyday, your body releases Vitamin B in the body. The moment you lack it, you need to develop it.”
Merck Philippines has launched a campaign to create awareness about nerve disorders, and how these can be treated with Vitamin B supplements. Research on the Vitamin B market has revealed that many Filipinos complain of prickly sensations, sharp stabbing pains at night or numbness in the arms or legs, yet often ignore the symptoms.
Louie Roxas, Merck’s general manager, said in the past 50 years, Neurobion, a Vitamin B supplement, has been prescribed by doctors to treat this disorder. Because of its track record in
safety and efficacy, the company relaunched it as an over-the-counter product.
Neurobion contains Vitamins B1 (thiamine), B6 (pyridoxine) and B12 (cobalamin).
“B1 and B6 will convert the carbohydrates and the food you take into energy. B6 will help synthesize the neurotransmitters. B12 will increase the production of new nerves, in case there is disruption to the synthesis of the nerves,” says Barangan.
Vitamin B12 is vital for the cell function, but a deficit of the vitamin usually appears in nerve cells or in red blood cells.
Asked why B vitamins don’t produce major side effects, Barangan explains: “B1, B6 and B12 are found in food. As vitamins they are water-soluble, thus they have to be replenished every day, unlike Vitamins A, D, E and K which are fat-soluble, meaning they bind to the fats of the body which can invariably be toxic because they are not always expelled. You seldom see toxicity with water-soluble vitamins, which can be excreted in urine and feces.”
He adds that Vitamin B complex shouldn’t just be taken as treatment for a disorder. It should also be consumed as a preventive measure.
“Not all medicines will increase the synthesis of damaged nerves due to trauma. If you take Vitamin B complex daily, the synthesis is faster. It also plays a major role in converting food into energy, and in improving your stamina.”