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How Burning Man Syndrome Could Help Treat Peripheral Neuropathy

In the new book "Chasing Men on Fire: The Story of a Search for a Pain Gene," Yale University neuroscientist Stephen G. Waxman details his search for the cause of hereditary erythromelalgia, also known as "burning man syndrome."

Categorized as burning pain that affects the hands and feet, burning man syndrome is often accompanied by skin redness and is frequently triggered by exposure to heat, exertion, stress and insomnia. Despite its unique characteristics, burning man syndrome still shares some key symptoms - and apparently origins - of peripheral and idiopathic small fiber neuropathy.

According to Waxman, the link is a specific gene called SCN9A, which causes both the neuropathy and hereditary erythromelalgia. The gene SCN9A is what is considered a sodium channel - a gene that gives the body instructions for making the "alpha subunit" of the NaV1.7 sodium channel. The NaV1.7 sodium channel, in turn, is the sodium channel found in the pain receptors (called nociceptors) of the peripheral nervous system.

Upon further research, Waxman found that when the NaV1.7 was affected by a genetic defect called a single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) this was cause for much of the pain experienced by both burning man and neuropathy patients.

This happens when the SNP defect causes the sodium channels to become overactive, turning on when they shouldn't and refusing to turn off when they should. This in turn makes the nerves hyperactive and causes the burning man or neuropathy patient to experience pain even when there are no painful stimuli present. Furthermore, because the SNP defect occurs outside the brain in the peripheral somatic and visceral neurons, the pain isn't just "in your head," so you may not be able to see a reason for it, but it's definitely there, and it's definitely very real.

According to Waxman, these sodium channels could be the key to stopping both burning man syndrome and various forms of neuropathy - if treated with a sodium channel blocker. Currently, sodium channel blockers are used in some dental procedures, and can be found in drugs like lidocaine or anticonvulsants like oxcarbazepine and to treat cardiac arrythmia. Just as sodium channel blockers can be used in these applications, Waxman hopes that it may someday be used to treat neuropathic disorders like burning man syndrome and peripheral neuropathy.

For now, patients can still get a great deal of relief from non-traditional, holistic treatments like light therapy, electronic therapy and, of course, stem cell therapy. To learn more about how these options can help treat your peripheral neuropathy or to set up a free nerve test, please call Dr. Nathan Weller at Restore Wellness Center at 480-751-1629.

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Wednesday, 14 November 2018

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