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St. Mary Medical Center opens area’s only neuropathy center
Good sensation is a matter of quality of life, but also safety and health. St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart announces the opening of the Neuropathy Center — a place where people at loss for sensation can receive comprehensive care for their condition.
The center offers hope to those who want to prevent the disease from becoming serious, and for those whose treatment options have been exhausted.
Neuropathy is a condition of the nerves that occurs most commonly in the feet and hands. It can cause pain, tingling and sensation loss. Severe neuropathy poses serious medical complications, and could result in amputation. Without the ability to feel sensation, patients aren’t aware of dangerous cuts or wounds.
The Neuropathy Center at St. Mary Medical Center is staffed by dedicated podiatrists, or foot doctors, who are most likely to treat the disease. Other specialists, such as hand surgeons, are available for those whose neuropathy affects places other than the feet.
The professionals at the Neuropathy Center can provide care from initial assessment to diagnostics and treatment, depending on the patient’s needs. The podiatrists at the Neuropathy Center are credentialed to perform a highly-specialized surgery at St. Mary Medical Center for those whose neuropathy cannot be cured with medications or physical therapy.
According to the Neuropathy Association (www.neuropathy.org), this condition affects 10-20 million Americans. It can occur at any age, but is more common among older adults. About 30 percent of neuropathies are of unknown cause; another 30 percent stem from diabetes. Other causes include cancer or cancer treatments, autoimmunity, tumors, heredity, nutritional deficiencies, infections, metabolic abnormalities and trauma.
“What is most dangerous about neuropathy is that those who are at risk for it might not feel symptoms until the disease has progressed to the point where they need a major medical intervention,” says Stephen Grandfield, D.P.M, a podiatrist on staff at St. Mary Medical Center. “If people with diabetes or other known causes of neuropathy simply were tested regularly for this, we could in most cases avoid severe complications, such as loss of limbs, wounds or other problems.”
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Screening for neuropathy is simple. A type of quantitative sensory testing called PSSD detects lack of normal sensation in feet and hands. The test is simple, painless, non-invasive and only takes a few minutes. It’s available through the Neuropathy Center thanks to a donation by the St. Mary Medical Center Auxiliary.
During the test, a technician uses a hand-held device attached to a laptop computer to graph the patient’s sense of touch and feel. The device has two small points that are held against the feet or hands while the computer does the calculations.
“This test provides instant results to tell us if the person has neuropathy, and to what degree. It’s extremely useful in helping us determine a plan of treatment right away,” says Michael Nirenberg, D.P.M., a podiatrist who sees patients in the Neuropathy Center.
The symptoms of peripheral neuropathy may include: numbness and loss of feeling (usually first in the feet or hands), slower reflexes, tingling sensations in fingers and toes, pain that may be sharp or lightning-like, deep aches that make sleep or daily activities difficult, sensitive skin that responds to the slightest touch and weak muscles.
Like any disease, the longer neuropathy goes unchecked, the more difficult it is to treat it effectively, says Michael Carroll, D.P.M., a St. Mary Medical Center staff podiatrist who sees patients at the Center.
“The first step in treating neuropathy is to find its underlying cause. If we can eliminate the cause, such as alcoholism or out-of-control diabetes, we have a better chance of getting the neuropathy under control,” Carroll says.
After determining the cause, doctors can help devise a treatment plan to address the symptoms, including drugs to increase sensation and decrease pain, and physical therapy to address mobility. Or, the doctors can simply refer patients back to their own physicians for follow-up care.
“We have so many patients with neuropathy whose doctors have exhausted all options,” says James Meade, D.P.M., who treats patients in the Center. “We always try conservative treatments first, but unfortunately, there isn’t a long list of conservative treatments for neuropathy, and prolonged use of medications can cause complications.”
The physicians who provide care at the Neuropathy Center underwent intense training at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore by renowned physician A. Lee Dellon, M.D., who pioneered a nerve decompression procedure to give patients relief. This procedure is now available at St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart for qualified patients.
Anyone who has diabetes or loss of sensation should ask their doctor about PSSD testing for neuropathy, or call the Neuropathy Center at St. Mary Medical Center: 219-947-6121. The Center is located at 1400 S. Lake Park Ave, Suite 202, Hobart, IN, 46342.