Diabetic neuropathy is the reason why diabetics are always advised to keep a close eye on their feet. It is one of the more serious effects of diabetes.
Usually, it affects people with Type 2 diabetes and uncontrolled blood sugar. For many people, the neuropathy only causes minor discomfort. For others, diabetic neuropathy causes a level of pain that affects their daily lives.
The good news is diabetic neuropathy is not inevitable — nor is it unmanageable.
Understanding diabetic neuropathy
Diabetic neuropathy is a type of nerve damage that happens to people with diabetes. It happens when the nerves and the blood vessels that nourish them are exposed to high levels of blood sugar. The damaged vessels become unable to efficiently carry nutrients and oxygen to the nerve cells. They may also be unable to remove waste in an efficient manner.
As the nerves get more undernourished, they stop functioning effectively. In the end, they may stop transmitting or receiving messages. Or they may go another route and transmit erroneous messages which result in pain and tingling.
Types of diabetic neuropathy
- Autonomic neuropathy affects the nerves that control autonomous body functions like bladder and temperature control
- Mono-neuropathy affects a single nerve in the leg, torso or face. It is painful but temporary
- Neuropathy that affects the lower body, namely the hip, buttock, thigh or leg. This type of neuropathy is painful and debilitating and limits a person's ability to move
- Peripheral neuropathy, which affects the limbs, especially the feet. Most diabetics with neuropathy usually have peripheral neuropathy
Symptoms of diabetic neuropathy
A person will notice one or more of the following symptoms:
- Loss of sensation in the affected area
- A sensation of pins and needles, as if the affected body part has gone to sleep
- A localized cold or burning sensation
- Deep, stabbing pain
- Touch sensitivity
- Problems with balance, caused by weakened muscles and damaged nerves
Peripheral neuropathy and how it affects the feet
Peripheral neuropathy affects the limbs. It is best known to affect the feet, where it can cause all kinds of problems. Because the feet are usually out of sight and out of mind, a loss of sensation could lead to wounds that go unnoticed.
Diabetics are usually slow to heal, so the smallest wound is likely to grow and in the worst case, become gangrenous. To keep themselves from living out this kind of a scenario, a diabetic with peripheral neuropathy of the feet should be proactive in the care of their feet.
How to prevent and manage diabetic neuropathy of the feet
To reduce the chances of peripheral neuropathy from happening, a person should keep their weight and blood glucose at normal levels. They should quit smoking and keep their drinking of alcohol to a minimum.
If a person already has nerve damage to their feet, they should keep their feet clean and dry and inspect them daily for cuts or sores. Wearing shoes and socks that fit perfectly will help prevent friction and blisters.
Getting regular checkups with a foot specialist, and certainly seeing their doctor the moment they find something wrong with their feet could go a long way in terms of prevention.
The bottom line
There are many diabetics that are caught unawares by a small cut that grows into a nightmare. Do not be one of them. Keep a close eye on your feet and get regular checkups from our foot specialist.
Request an appointment here: https://www.pocatellopodiatry.com or call Ambulatory Foot & Ankle Clinic at (208) 803-0010 for an appointment in our Pocatello office.
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