A recent story in Classic Rock Magazine quotes the 71-year-old rock icon that peripheral neuropathy may end his career.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NIH) says an estimated 20 million people in the United States have some form of the condition. It develops as a result of damage to the peripheral nervous system — the vast communications network that transmits information between the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) and every other part of the body. (Neuropathy means nerve disease or damage.) Symptoms can range from numbness or tingling to pricking sensations (paresthesia), or muscle weakness. Areas of the body may become abnormally sensitive leading to an exaggeratedly intense or distorted experience of touch (allodynia). In such cases, pain may occur in response to a stimulus that does not normally provoke pain. Severe symptoms may include burning pain (especially at night), muscle wasting, paralysis, or organ or gland dysfunction. Damage to nerves that supply internal organs may impair digestion, sweating, sexual function, and urination. In the most extreme cases, breathing may become difficult, or organ failure may occur.
“I’ve had quite a lot of pain over the last year.”
“You feel like you have electric shocks going down your leg.”Eric Clapton, a famous rock n roll guitarist
For a famous rock n roll guitarist, this could be a career disaster. However, more than Clapton’s career could be at stake, Clapton could see mobility issues since peripheral neuropathy can affect the motor nerves. Those who suffer from this condition could end up with a partial or total loss of movement and muscle control. It can also cause muscle atrophy. This is where a person could lose some muscle tissue. Plus many people have a lack of muscle control and dexterity, which can affect one’s ability to do normal every tasks and activities of daily living. Many times this leads to a person requiring help with activities of daily living (ADL’s) which would require them to need extended Long Term Health Care.
The causes of peripheral neuropathy include toxins such as alcohol and drug abuse. As Clapton’s neuropathy is in his legs, rather than his hands, it is unlikely that the condition was directly caused by his guitar-playing. Clapton is quoted as saying drug and alcohol abuse was an issue for him. More common causes for people who suffer this condition include:
Injury or sudden trauma
Metabolic and endocrine disorders including Diabetes
Small vessel disease
In a career spanning five decades, Clapton has written and performed countless hits, such as Layla, Tears in Heaven and Sunshine of Your Love. According to the classical music magazine, Scena, peripheral neuropathy accounts for one in five diagnoses among musicians.
As people age, many are impacted by peripheral neuropathy which impacts their lifestyle. Many times the cost of care will impact a person’s retirement savings since most Long-Term Care costs are not paid for by health insurance or Medicare. This means the financial costs and burdens of aging should be considered when planning for your future retirement. Unless a person has Long-Term Care Insurance they will rely on either family caregivers or their savings to pay for caregivers. If a person has little or no assets or spend down their assets Medicaid will pay for care.
As aging rock stars and their boomer fans age they will together face these health issues which can cause physical, emotional and financial burdens on loved ones.