What you need to know about diabetic neuropathy
Diabetic neuropathy is a type of nerve damage that can occur in people with diabetes. It is a common complication of diabetes, and can affect up to half of all people with the condition. Diabetic neuropathy is caused by high blood sugar levels, which can damage the nerves over time. The condition can affect the nerves in many different parts of the body, including the feet, legs, hands, and arms.
There are several different types of diabetic neuropathy, each of which can cause different symptoms and affect different parts of the body. The most common types of diabetic neuropathy include:
Peripheral neuropathy: This type of neuropathy affects the nerves that transmit information from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body, including the hands, feet, arms, and legs. Symptoms may include numbness, tingling, burning, and pain in the affected areas. In some cases, peripheral neuropathy can cause muscle weakness and loss of reflexes.
Autonomic neuropathy: This type of neuropathy affects the nerves that control the internal organs, including the heart, stomach, and bladder. Symptoms may include dizziness, low blood pressure, digestive problems, and bladder problems.
Proximal neuropathy: This type of neuropathy affects the nerves in the thighs, hips, and buttocks. Symptoms may include pain, weakness, and wasting of the affected muscles.
Focal neuropathy: This type of neuropathy affects a specific nerve or group of nerves, and can cause sudden weakness or pain in the affected area. Focal neuropathy can affect the eyes, face, torso, or legs.
The symptoms of diabetic neuropathy can vary depending on the type and severity of the condition. In many cases, symptoms may develop slowly over time and may be mild at first. However, as the condition progresses, symptoms may become more severe and can affect quality of life.
In addition to high blood sugar levels, there are several other risk factors that can increase the likelihood of developing diabetic neuropathy. These include:
High blood pressure
High cholesterol levels
Being overweight or obese
Having a family history of neuropathy
The diagnosis of diabetic neuropathy typically involves a physical exam, a review of symptoms, and a nerve conduction study. During a nerve conduction study, electrodes are placed on the skin to measure the speed and strength of nerve signals.
There is currently no cure for diabetic neuropathy, but there are several treatments that can help manage symptoms and slow the progression of the condition. These may include:
Blood sugar control: Keeping blood sugar levels within a healthy range can help prevent further nerve damage and may even help improve symptoms.
Medications: There are several medications that may be used to manage symptoms of diabetic neuropathy, including pain medications, antidepressants, and anti-seizure medications.
Physical therapy: Physical therapy may help improve muscle strength and reduce pain and stiffness in the affected areas.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS): TENS is a non-invasive treatment that involves the use of electrodes to deliver a low-level electrical current to the affected area. This can help reduce pain and improve nerve function.
Nutritional supplements: Certain supplements, such as alpha-lipoic acid, may help reduce nerve damage and improve symptoms of diabetic neuropathy.
In addition to medical treatments, there are several self-care strategies that may help manage symptoms of diabetic neuropathy. These may include:
Wearing comfortable shoes that fit well and provide good support
Inspecting the feet daily for cuts, blisters, or other signs of damage
Keeping the feet clean and dry
Maintaining good hygiene and skin care
Quitting smoking and limiting alcohol use
In the end, the most important thing to remember is that there is always an answer to your health problems.