Vietnam Veteran standing in a cemetery
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Peripheral Neuropathy in Vietnam Veterans

I understand that peripheral neuropathy can be a challenging condition to deal with. It involves damage or dysfunction of the peripheral nerves, which are essential for transmitting signals between the central nervous system and the rest of the body. These nerves play a crucial role in connecting our limbs, organs, and skin. If you or someone you know is facing this condition, it’s important to seek proper medical guidance and support. Remember, you’re not alone, and there are resources available to help you navigate this journey.

The symptoms of peripheral neuropathy can vary widely and may include:

  • Tingling and Numbness: A common early symptom, often starting in the toes or fingers and spreading upward.
  • Burning Sensation: Some individuals experience a sensation of burning or electric shock-like pain.
  • Weakness: Muscle weakness and difficulty with coordination can occur, leading to problems with balance and walking.
  • Sensitivity: Increased sensitivity to touch, temperature changes, or pain, even to things that wouldn’t normally cause discomfort.
  • Loss of Reflexes: Reduced or absent reflexes can be observed during a medical examination.
  • Muscle Atrophy: Over time, muscles may start to shrink due to decreased nerve input.
  • Autonomic Symptoms: In some cases, peripheral neuropathy can also affect the autonomic nervous system, leading to symptoms like changes in blood pressure, heart rate, and digestion.

Peripheral neuropathy can have various causes, including diabetes, infections, certain medications, traumatic injuries, and exposure to toxins. Peripheral neuropathy is also one of the health conditions that can be associated with exposure to certain chemicals, such as Agent Orange.

Managing blood sugar levels through proper diabetes care, including medication, diet, and exercise, can help slow down or prevent the progression of peripheral neuropathy. Regular medical check-ups and communication with healthcare providers are important for early detection and management of complications like neuropathy in individuals with diabetes.

Early onset peripheral neuropathy, or neuropathy which begins at a relatively young age, is presumptive for Agent Orange. However, this type of peripheral neuropathy must being within one year of exposure to the herbicide for it to be considered presumptive.

On the other hand, peripheral neuropathy is also linked to diabetes. Diabetes mellitus type 2 is considered presumptive for Agent Orange exposure. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recognizes a link between exposure to Agent Orange and the development of diabetes mellitus type 2 in veterans. This means that if a veteran was exposed to Agent Orange during their service and develops type 2 diabetes, they may be eligible for benefits and medical care from the VA.

Peripheral neuropathy is commonly associated with diabetes. It is one of the most common complications of diabetes and is often referred to as diabetic neuropathy. High blood sugar levels over an extended period can lead to damage to the nerves, particularly the peripheral nerves, which can result in peripheral neuropathy.

Diabetic peripheral neuropathy typically affects the nerves of the extremities, such as the feet and legs, but it can also affect the hands and arms. The symptoms are similar to those mentioned earlier and can include tingling, numbness, burning sensations, pain, weakness, and problems with coordination and balance.

The bottom line is this. IF a Veteran who was exposed to Agent Orange is diagnosed with diabetes and, later on, diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy, then the neuropathy can be linked as a secondary condition of diabetes.

As always, NWAVet advises consultation with an accredited Veteran Service Officer for up to date information and help with filing VA disability claims.

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