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Managing peripheral neuropathy

If you are prescribed oxaliplatin, it is likely that you will experience some degree of peripheral neuropathy soon after receiving the treatment. The symptoms begin during or shortly after an infusion and usually disappear a few days after treatment ends.

As treatment continues, symptoms may last longer or become more noticeable. They are often triggered by eating, drinking, or touching something cold or breathing cold air. Most people cope well with the short-term symptoms of peripheral neuropathy with only a few changes to their lifestyle.

Things you can do to help

  • After having your chemotherapy, wait in the unit for 20 minutes to warm up and have a hot drink to minimise throat spasm caused by going out in the cold.
  • It is important to protect your hands and feet by keeping them warm at all times.
  • Use gloves when you go out in cold weather and to avoid touching anything cold.
  • Wear socks to keep your feet warm. Don’t walk around barefoot at home.
  • Wear a scarf or face mask if you must go outside in cold weather.
  • Don’t eat or drink cold or even cool foods. Eat food that is at room temperature.
  • Don’t sit in an air-conditioned room or car.
  • Try to go for a walk every day, even for a short distance. This will prevent muscle weakness, which adds to your general lack of balance.
  • Wear soft shoes and add padded insoles to make walking less painful.
  • If it’s a cold day when you have your treatment, bring gloves, a blanket, and warm socks.

Keeping safe with peripheral neuropathy

  • Always test water with part of your body not affected by neuropathy such as your elbow before you bathe, shower, or wash dishes.
  • Turn your hot-water thermostat to a lower setting. It is easy to burn yourself if you cannot judge the temperature of water.
  • Always wear gloves when working in the garden and use oven gloves in the kitchen to avoid injury.
  • Take special care with kitchen knives and tools.
  • Clear your house and garden of things you might trip on such as rugs, slippery surfaces and clutter on stairs and steps. Make sure rooms are well lit and always put a light on if you get up during the night.
  • Put a skid-proof mat in the bathtub or shower cubicle, and consider using a shower stool.
  • If you have problems balancing or walking, ask for a referral to a physical therapist to strengthen muscles, build balance, or prescribe a walking aid. An occupational therapist may be able to help adapt your home so daily activities are easier and safer for you.
  • Check your feet every day for redness, injuries, or blisters and tell your nurse if you are concerned. It is important to avoid an infection developing.

 

Please visit our patient forum for tips and support on living with peripheral neuropathy.