Does Medicare Cover Laser for Neuropathy?

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What is Neuropathy?

When asking question such as, “does Medicare cover laser for Neuropathy,” it’s helpful to make sure you have clarity on the condition.

 

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), Neuropathy means damage to one or more nerves, especially the peripheral nerves.  Other definitions, from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), include that Neuropathy generally refers to damage to your body’s nervous system. This also states that Peripheral Neuropathy is a common form of Neuropathy. More on types of neuropathy as we continue.

 

It is important to know that your nervous system is the main hub of communication between what your brain wants to do and the way your body acts. Any damage to these neural pathways can be detrimental to your body’s ability to move in specific ways.

Causes and Risk Factors of Neuropathy

While one of the most common causes of neuropathy is diabetes, there are other risk factors to consider. Some of these include:

    • Physical injury or trauma (for example, from a car accident or surgery)
    • Infection
    • Metabolic issues or hormone imbalance
    • Genetic conditions
    • Being exposed to toxins
    • Excessive alcohol use
    • Certain other diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis

Symptoms of Neuropathy

While these are not universal symptoms in any way, The National Institute of Health (NIH) does provide a list of the most common symptoms people will experience if they have neuropathy. 

    • Sharp, throbbing pain or cramping
    • Numbness in your hands and feet (most common with diabetic neuropathy)
    • Heightened sensitivity to touch
    • Inability to feel pain or temperature changes
    • Lack of muscle coordination
    • Muscle weakness

Types of Neuropathy

 

Peripheral neuropathy

As introduced above, Peripheral Neuropathy is a condition that happens when your peripheral nervous system sustains damage. Peripheral nerves consist of the nerves that exist outside of the brain and spinal cord. They help you process information from the outside world (i.e. the hot stove example from above). These nerves affect muscle movement, the ability to feel pain and temperature, and even certain metabolic processes.

When these pathways are damaged, all of these processes are interrupted. Your body can’t “hear” what your brain is saying and likewise in reverse.

Within the category of Peripheral Neuropathy, there are different types of Peripheral Neuropathy:

    1. Motor neuropathy. This is damage to the nerves that control muscles and movement in the body, such as moving your hands and arms or talking.
    2. Sensory neuropathy. Sensory nerves control what you feel, such as pain, temperature or a light touch. Sensory neuropathy affects these groups of nerves.
    3. Autonomic nerve neuropathy. Autonomic nerves control functions that you are not conscious of, such as breathing and heartbeat. Damage to these nerves can be serious.
    4. Combination neuropathies. You may have a mix of 2 or 3 of these other types of neuropathies, such as a sensory-motor neuropathy

 

 

Treatment for Neuropathy

It’s very important to understand the cause of neuropathy. According to the NIH, peripheral nerves may be able to regenerate if the nerve cell is still alive, so it’s possible to regain function if you can fix the underlying issue.

Certain health factors can put you at risk for peripheral neuropathy, like rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes. If this is the case for you, managing these conditions might be vital to preventing neuropathy.

Although there really isn’t a “cure” so to speak for neuropathy, depending on how you sustained damage to your nerves, there are several different ways to change your lifestyle circumstances and choices in order to help manage the pain and symptoms. Some of these include:

    • Exercise
    • Eating a healthy diet
    • Limiting alcohol
    • Quitting smoking
    • Managing blood sugar levels (for diabetes patients)

When this is not possible, there are different treatments you can seek. Laser therapy is one of them. But is it possible to have insurance coverage for this treatment? Does Medicare cover laser for Neuropathy?

How does laser help Neuropathy?

According to healthline, the laser therapy is described as different wavelengths and outputs of low-level light are applied directly to a targeted area. The body tissue then absorbs the light. The red and near-infrared light cause a reaction, and the damaged cells respond with a physiological reaction that promotes regeneration.

Although you can feel the device touching your skin, the procedure is painless and noninvasive. There will be no sound and you’ll feel no vibration or heat. Each treatment typically takes only a few minutes.

How does laser help Neuropathy?

According to research, deep tissue laser therapy (DTLT) results in a significant decrease in pain and functionality for those with diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Laser therapy is often used to encourage blood flow, decrease inflammation and speed up healing of tissue.

Medicare Coverage for laser for Neuropathy

The short answer, is kind of. There are some that believe that there isn’t enough evidence to show that laser is an effective treatment for Neuropathy, making it hard to get coverage approved. But don’t stop there.

Medicare can be a tricky thing to navigate. For this reason, it’s important to understand what you have or what you need if you are just becoming eligible for Medicare. It’s important to have a full understanding of which Medicare plans you have coverage under and what this may mean for you if you need to seek laser treatment for neuropathy.

Medicare A and B

Medicare Original– the least expensive plan- doesn’t include any extra features like dental, vision or prescription plans. It does provide coverage for any medically necessary hospital visits or any exams you might need that specifically pertain to conditions sustained by neuropathy. While this will cover some things you will need, it’s likely that it won’t cover something like laser for Neuropathy.

Medicare Advantage or Medicare D

If you have one of these plans, it means you are likely paying more in order to partner with a private insurance company. This option usually gives you the ability to some extra insurance for more money (Medicare Advantage) and/or to have the addition of a prescription plan (Medicare D).

With regards to coverage for laser for neuropathy, having Medicare D or A Medicare Advantage Plan will be necessary as you will most likely need to find a private insurance company for this type of treatment. Even so, finding a doctor that believes in the treatment and can help you walk the path of finding coverage will be very helpful.

Even with Medicare coverage for laser for Neuropathy, it’s common for such treatments to have to pay a deductible of some sort which can add up.

If you aren’t sure which plan you have, or you are currently looking for a plan, click here to learn more about the different Medicare plans and options. It’s important to understand all of your medical needs before you make a choice about which type of plan will be best for you.

 

Does Medicare Cover Laser for Neuropathy?

While there is usually some form of coverage available, it often takes you, the patient, time to do some research and ask questions with your doctors.

 

If you just aren’t sure where to begin, we are always here to help you get started. Call us today to find out your questions about Medicare coverage for neuropathy. 

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