Weight Loss Surgery & Nerve Damage - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Tuesday, February 8, 2005

Weight Loss Surgery & Nerve Damage

Weight loss surgery is big news these days. There are the success stories and the nightmares where something goes drastically wrong. The reality is weight loss surgery is helping many obese people lose weight and regain their health. But the surgery is not risk-free. Mayo Clinic doctors studied weight loss surgery and found that some patients were at risk of developing a nerve disease called peripheral neuropathy.

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"...Lady Day, let's go for a walk..."

Lady Day and Reenie have been there for Carol Griffiths through thick and thin. Literally.

"I was 453 pounds."

These two were a welcome distraction for Carol when she decided to do something to keep herself alive. She had gastric bypass surgery to reduce the size of her stomach. Now, Carol's...

"Happy to be down to 150."

Carol's weight loss improved her diabetes and risk of heart disease, but it also caused another problem.

"My feet were tingling and numb. I started falling. I was dragging my left leg."

Carol developed what's called peripheral neuropathy. It's a disease of the nerves that can show up as a mild case of carpal tunnel. Or in Carol's case, severe weakness in her arms and legs.

Dr. P. James Dyck and colleguegs at Mayo Clinic studied peripheral nerve damage in people who had gastric bypass surgery.

"We found that people developed it when they were losing weight too rapidly. When they had nutritional deficiencies."

After Carol's surgery she had a hard time keeping food down. Because of that she didn't get the nutrition she needed. But this may be a preventable problem for many patients.

"People who get nutritional supplements should be able to prevent, in large part, getting peripheral neuropathy."

And now with the support of Lady Day and Reenie, Carol is getting stronger and healthier.

Dr. Dyck says that while you can prevent much of the nerve damage with proper nutrition, you may not be able to reverse it completely once the damage is done. Gastric bypass surgery is a good option for some people who are significantly overweight. But Dr. Dyck strongly recommends you weigh the risks beforehand. And if you do have the surgery, it is essential that you talk to your doctor and a dietician about proper nutrition. Nerve damage is just one of many complications that can happen after surgery. Follow up with your doctor is a must. For more information about gastric bypass surgery, log onto http://www.medicaledge.org/2004december-2.html

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