What is diabetic neuropathy? Diabetic neuropathy is a condition that affects about half of all people with diabetes. It occurs when high blood sugar (glucose) damages nerves in the body, most often in the legs and feet. Some people with diabetic neuropathy experience only mild symptoms, but for others, it’s debilitating. Here, we offer a guide to everything you should know about diabetic neuropathy.
First, it’s important to understand that diabetic neuropathy is a serious complication of diabetes. It’s progressive and can’t be cured, but you can make lifestyle changes to help manage or even prevent it. Researchers don’t know exactly what causes diabetic neuropathy, but the hypothesis is that uncontrolled blood sugar damages nerves and weakens the walls of the capillaries that supply the nerves with nutrients and oxygen. The symptoms can develop over many years, which is good news in that they offer a warning before the condition becomes dire. What are the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy? The symptoms depend on the type of neuropathy that’s occurred and which nerves are affected. A better question, then Is, “What are the different types of diabetic neuropathy?”
Peripheral neuropathy is the most common type. It first affects the feet and legs, then the hands and arms, causing numbness, tingling or burning, reduced sensitivity to pain or temperature changes, sharp pains, muscle weakness, extreme sensitivity to things that shouldn’t hurt, like a bedsheet’s weight on the feet. It can also cause serious foot issues, including ulcers, infections, and bone and joint damage. Many people experience worse peripheral neuropathy symptoms at night.
Autonomic neuropathy affects involuntary processes. Nerves that control blood pressure, heart rate, sweating, eyes, bladder, digestive system, and sex organs can all be affected by diabetes. This can cause a person to be unaware of low blood sugar, have sudden drop in blood pressure when changing position, bladder or bowel problems, changes in eyesight, increased or decreased sweating, difficulty swallowing, and problems with sexual function. It can also cause gastroparesis, which means the stomach empties slowly. This can cause nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite.
Proximal neuropathy is also called diabetic polyradiculopathy. This affects nerves in the thighs, hips, buttocks, or legs, and can also affect the chest and abdomen. Typically, symptoms are on one side of the body, but they can spread to the other side. Symptoms of proximal neuropathy include severe pain in the hip, thigh, or buttock, thigh muscles that grow weak or shrink, difficulty getting up from a sitting position, and pain in the abdominal wall or chest.
Mononeuropathy, or focal neuropathy, refers to one specific damaged nerve. It can affect a nerve in the face, torso, arm, or leg, and may lead to double vision or trouble focusing, paralysis on one side of the face, numb or tingling hands or fingers, hand weakness that can lead to dropping things, pain in the front of the thigh, or weakness that makes it hard to lift the front part of the foot.
If you have diabetes, you are at risk of developing neuropathy. However, your risk increases with certain factors. If your blood sugar is not well controlled, the risk of every diabetes complication, including neuropathy. The longer a person has diabetes, the more likely it is that neuropathy will develop. If the kidneys are damaged by diabetes, it increases the risk of neuropathy, as does a body max index (BMI) of 25 or more. Smoking narrows the arteries and reduces blood flow to the lower extremities, damaging the peripheral nerves and making it harder for wounds to heal.
Diabetic neuropathy treatment begins with awareness and prevention. Be aware of the symptoms of neuropathy, and talk to your doctor at the first sign that you might have this condition. Check your feet regularly for wounds or sores, and take good care of your feet. While the damage from neuropathy can’t be reversed, there are steps you can take to prevent it or slow its progression. Blood sugar management is key, so eating a nutritious diet, exercising regularly, and following your doctor’s instructions regarding medications are all important steps to take. Researchers are looking for new ways to treat neuropathy, and in the meantime your doctor can recommend medications and alternative treatments that may help.
If you’re looking for diabetic neuropathy treatment, trust Oregon Medical Centers to help. Founded in 1989 as First Choice Chiropractic, Oregon Medical Centers was established in 2018 after adding Medical Providers and becoming an integrated medical facility. Specialists in treating car accident and workplace injuries, we also treat conditions like sciatica, pinched nerves, TMJ, neck and back pain, headaches, joint pain, and much more. We offer chiropractic care, physical therapy, massage, and regenerative medicine, and we specialize in diagnosing and treating chronic pain. Our dedicated medical team provides high-level care and compassion for patients in a collaborative environment where patients get the best possible treatment. What’s more, our insurance department assists in the insurance process, to alleviate stress for patients and allow them to focus on getting better. For more information, to find a location, or to schedule an appointment, call (503) 390-1552 in Salem, (503) 642-2845 in Aloha, or contact us through our website.