If you or a loved one has diabetes, you know how challenging it can be to regulate your blood sugar. Even with modern medical devices such as insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors, your numbers may not always be where they should. Unfortunately, these fluctuations in blood sugar can be damaging to many body organs and systems, including the liver, kidneys, heart, eyes, and nerves. One of the most common conditions diabetics develop as a result of their condition is neuropathy.
When blood sugar is too high over long periods, it damages your blood vessels. When the little blood vessels that feed your nerves are harmed, blood flow to the nerve stops, and the nerve is damaged or destroyed.
Types Of Neuropathy
There are four types of neuropathy, each classified by the location of the nerves.
Nerve damage to the outer ends of the nerves in feet, legs, hands, and arms.
Symptoms may include tingling sensations, stabbing, burning feet, numbness, and hypersensitivity to pressure or touch. Even the weight of a sheet on the bed may cause pain enough to wake you up or keep you from falling asleep.
In addition to the discomfort or pain you experience, this nerve damage can lead to other difficulties:
- You may not notice an injury to your extremities because the pain or numbness makes it hard to feel anything else.
- The same lack of blood flow that causes nerve damage also slows healing so untreated wounds can get infected. Severe infections can be life-threatening and require amputation and heavy antibiotics, so inspect your hands and feet daily.
- You may not feel objects in your path, putting you at risk of tripping and falling.
- You may notice your reaction time is slower, which makes it harder to recover when you trip or injure yourself.
- You may experience muscle weakness, making it hard to walk or grip things.
Your autonomic system runs many bodily functions you aren’t consciously aware of, such as breathing, heart rate, bowel and bladder use, digestion, and other organ functions that happen without your knowledge.
The damaged nerves change how the associated bodily process functions. For example, an injured nerve leading to the bowel can cause constipation or diarrhea.
While peripheral means the outer edge, proximal means closer to the center. Proximal nerves lead to your chest, back, buttocks, and thighs. A rare form of neuropathy, it often manifests as pain in the thighs, hips, and lower back.
Also known as (mononeuropathy), focal neuropathy affects only one nerve and may be temporary. It can lead to pain in areas around the affected nerve.
What Should You Do If You Experience Symptoms?
- First, know that many of these symptoms may have more than one possible cause. It is essential to see your physician or other medical professionals who can verify the source of the problem. If you fix the underlying condition, the neuropathy may go away. However, nerve damage may become permanent if the condition persists without medical intervention. The sooner you seek treatment, the better.
- If the cause of your neuropathy is diabetes, it is critical to get your blood sugar under control. Test often and follow your prescribed treatment protocol. If you are having trouble keeping your blood sugar within the recommended range, speak to a specialist about options for better managing your condition. Type two diabetes patients may be able to control their blood sugar with dietary changes.
- Some therapies encourage nerve repair and conductivity and reduce pain. It’s important to explore your options, even if you have been told the condition is permanent. Different branches of medicine use different technology and methods. If one branch lacks options, another discipline may have the solution for you.
- Adjust your approach to suit your symptoms. If you have foot numbness or pain, wear comfortably fitted shoes all the time to prevent injuries. Be hypervigilant when using the oven or stove, as you may not feel burns immediately. Slower reaction times mean a more severe burn. Know your condition and take precautions to protect yourself.
- Check yourself for injuries daily. Minor injuries can lead to infections that could be life-threatening if not treated early due to reduced blood flow. Assume every injury is serious. Go to the doctor immediately if the redness around the wound spreads, you see streaking in the surrounding blood vessels, or you develop a fever.
To Wrap Up
Whatever type of nerve damage you may have, you can do things to improve your situation and quality of life. Don’t give up hope. Get help sooner rather than later. Living with diabetes does not mean you have to accept all the potential discomfort that comes with it. There are treatments to help with the pain and numbness that come with diabetic neuropathy.
DISCLAIMER: THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE
The information, including but not limited to texts, graphics, images, and other material contained in this article, are for informational purposes only. None of the material mentioned is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment before undertaking a new care regimen. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article.