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Is there a blood test to detect neuropathy?

May 8, 1996

"Is there a blood test to detect neuropathy?"

Response from Dr. Cohen

No, neuropathy is diagnosed only by symptoms and by physical examination. People with neuropathy usually complain of burning pain or numbness in their toes, which may progress and involve the feet and legs. There are two important causes of neuropathy in HIV infected individuals: HIV itself and medications. The drugs that are most likely to cause neuropathy are the "d drugs": ddC (zalcitabine or HIVID), ddI (didanosine or Videx), and d4T (stavudine or Zerit). If neuropathy is a result of a "d drug" it usually gets better or goes away after you stop the drug. If it's caused by HIV it may get better with antiretroviral therapy (although avoiding the "d drugs" is probably wise, to minimize confusion). The symptoms of neuropathy can be treated with tricyclic antidepressants (such as nortriptyline or Pamelor, and amitryptiline or Elavil). Other therapies that are used to treat neuropathy include anti-seizure medications, mexiletine, capsaican cream (Zostrix) and acupuncture. Standard pain medications can also be used, although they may be less effective than for other types of pain.

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