Peripheral Neuropathy

  • By Judith Sullivan
  • 03 Apr, 2017
Author/blogger Reggie Simpson

I still (can) do

In 2002, the renowned English rock and blues guitarist, singer and songwriter Eric Clapton took part in ‘Concert for George’, a tribute to the late George Harrison, who wrote the song for the Beatles’ ‘The White Album’, released in 1968. The song features lead guitar by Clapton although he was never formally credited on the album.

That song may hold particular poignancy for Clapton as he has recently been diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy, which has severely affected his ability to play the guitar, yet he managed to release his 23 album, ‘I Still Do’ earlier this year.

Clapton discussed the symptoms of the ailment, including numbness in his limbs, especially extremities. He said in an interview, ‘I’ve had quite a lot of pain over the last year. It started with lower back pain and turned into what they call peripheral neuropathy, which is where you feel like you have electric shocks going down your leg … [It’s] hard work to play the guitar and I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that it will not improve.’

Peripheral neuropathy develops when nerves in the body – such as the hands, feet and arms – are damaged. The symptoms depend on which nerves are affected. Peripheral neuropathy can be caused by a number of health issues such as diabetes, vitamin deficiency, medication (e.g., chemotherapy), traumatic injury, radiation therapy, immune system disease, Coeliac disease, viral infection or excessive alcohol consumption.

Clapton’s neuropathy was triggered by years of substance abuse, particularly long-term, heavy alcohol use. He is ‘dry’ now, but acknowledges the damage to his health in his later years.

In most cases, people who develop alcohol-related peripheral neuropathy have been active alcoholics for at least 10 years. Such neuropathy can damage motor nerves and sensory nerves. Symptoms can include burning, numbness, tingling and/or shooting/stabbing pain in the toes and/or fingertips, muscle cramps, muscle pain, muscle twitching, partial or complete loss of normal muscle control and other movement-related disorders. In severe forms, alcohol-related neuropathy can lead to incontinence, male impotence, constipation, diarrhoea, and/or abnormal intolerance to heat.

In the UK, it is estimated that almost 1 in 10 people aged 55+ are affected by some degree of peripheral neuropathy. Diabetes is the most common cause. Peripheral neuropathy can also be an early indicator of diabetes among those not previously diagnosed with it.

One of the early changes can be loss of sensation in your feet, often starting at the toes.  Your chances of losing feeling in your feet increases with the number of years that you have diabetes and research suggests that up to one in three people with diabetes have some loss of sensation. The onset of neuropathy is gradual and often people who develop this complication are unaware of it at the start. Often it occurs between 7 and 10 years of having diabetes, although in some cases it can occur sooner where blood sugar levels have not been so well controlled.

Any change in sensation in the fingers or toes may be a symptom of peripheral neuropathy.  Be sure to report any abnormal sensations to your GP.  

Betafeet Podiatry can help identify whether you are showing signs of peripheral neuropathy or help to treat and manage your neuropathy as best as possible.

If you have been diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy, it is important to inspect your feet regularly. Decreased sensation may develop eventually, so you might not notice an injury or infection. With the loss of protective sensation, someone who has peripheral neuropathy could step on a stone without noticing it. Regularly inspect your feet so you can note any injuries or infections and seek appropriate podiatry or wider medical attention as needed.

By Judith Sullivan 09 Dec, 2017
By Reggie Simpson
By Judith Sullivan 28 Sep, 2017

We are delighted to announce that prose written by our Practice Business Manager, Reggie Simpson, will be featured in the Rennie Grove Hospice Care’s Rhyme & Reason 2018 diary, now in its 26th year. The theme for this forthcoming year’s diary is ‘Freedom’. All proceeds from sales of the diary go to support this worthwhile charity.

Reggie says: ‘Although my entry wasn't among the top poetry and prize winners, I was chuffed to be selected for the 2018 diary. The theme was quite broad, but my degrees in politics and love of writing invariably drew me to entering the competition. In the end I settled on a focus of freedom in healthcare, no doubt inspired by my current employment at Betafeet Podiatry and the noble work of Rennie Grove Hospice Care ( ).

Rennie Grove Hospice Care, formally known as Iain Rennie Hospice at Home, merged with Grove House, St Albans in 2010 to integrate services in south western Hertfordshire. The ethos and values of the two charities were closely aligned with the principle of allowing patients to lead a good quality of life at home for as long as possible, helping patients and their families avoid the distress of unnecessary hospital visits whenever possible.

The diaries can be ordered from the Rennie Grove website, payment by debit/credit card. It's part of their annual Christmas/holiday promotion. There will also be copies in local Rennie Grove shops. They are £5 each with additional postage if bought online. Shop locations can be found here: .

Here is Reggie’s entry (to appear in the month of September 2018): 

‘Do not count the days; make the days count.’

Muhammad Ali. Professional Boxer.  Audacious. Charismatic. A winner in the ring.

But even when you have won it all, life throws you a few more punches.

Yes, his name opened doors and wealth, but the bombastic man of his younger years was humbled in later life, and following retirement, he dedicated himself increasingly to charitable work. Parkinson’s was already taking hold.

He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005, the highest honour the USA can bestow.   He died in June 2016, aged 74.

Now the news is about boxing helping dementia sufferers.

So what does this mean for freedom? Does getting battered around the head spell freedom and choice? One would say yes; a boxer is free to take such risks. When the consequences deal you a fatal blow as a result, when do you lose your freedom? Is it when you have been reduced to a shadow of your former self, a normal human being, and have to rely on others? Muhammad Ali likely had plenty of resources to ensure his final days would help him on his final journey.

We tend to think of freedom in political terms. It is hard to remove freedom in healthcare from politics. Think NHS reform, among others. Freedom in a healthcare environment means more to the individuals and families when they have life-limiting illnesses and need the care of volunteer-run hospices such as Iain Rennie Grove.

The NHS gives patients the rights to make choices about different aspects of the care they receive, from the different treatment options available. How these are chosen is individual, although for those with life threatening or limiting illnesses this choice will fall on family members. 

I quote the following:

‘In health there is freedom. Health is the first of all liberties’.

Henri-Frédéric Amiel, Philosopher

September is World Alzheimer’s Month.




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