What is Diabetic Neuropathy?

Diabetic neuropathy is a type of nerve damage that occurs in people with diabetes. It is a long-term complication of diabetes. Diabetic neuropathy develops gradually and worsens over time. It can affect the nerves in different parts of the body, such as the feet, and internal organs like the heart, bladder, and intestines. It is a pretty serious health issue that must be addressed as soon as possible.

The condition is widely found among diabetics because high blood sugar levels directly affect the nerves in such people. However, there are ways to combat this condition, such as the following:

  • Healthy diet
  • Proper glycemic control
  • Regular exercise

Talking about exercise, take a look at the 5 exercises for improving lower back strength.

Types of Diabetic Neuropathy

The four main types of neuropathy that impact the nervous system are:

1. Autonomic Neuropathy

Autonomic Neuropathy - A Type of Diabetic Neuropathy

It is the damage to the nerves that are involved in carrying information to the glands and organs in the body. Recent research indicates that autonomic neuropathies can occur alongside or independently, and the autonomic reflex screen is a validated tool for assessing sympathetic postganglionic, cardiovascular sympathetic noradrenergic, and cardiac parasympathetic responses.

2. Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral Neuropathy -  A Type of Diabetic Neuropathy

It’s one of the most common types of neuropathy, which damages the nerves in the hands and feet. It can either be sensory neuropathy, motor neuropathy, or both.

3. Proximal Neuropathy

Proximal Neuropathy -  A Type of Diabetic Neuropathy

It is a pretty rare type of neuropathy that damages the nerves in the hip, thigh, or buttocks. Found to be more common in men than in women, it usually affects one side of the body.  

4. Focal Neuropathy

Focal Neuropathy - A Type of Diabetic Neuropathy

It’s a condition where damage is caused to a single nerve. This type is less common than autonomic or peripheral neuropathy. It can affect a nerve in the head, hand, or torso.

What Causes Diabetic Neuropathy?

High Sugar Causes Diabetic Neuropathy

High blood sugar levels can harm the body in several ways. One of them is the damage done to the tiny blood vessels, which supply the nerves with oxygen and other nutrients. Therefore, the nerves have inadequate oxygen and nutrients, which hampers their ability to function properly. Thus, it’s crucial to manage your blood sugar levels.

Here are 7 things that raise your blood sugar.

Symptoms of Diabetic Neuropathy

Symptoms of Diabetic Neuropathy

The symptoms may vary from one person to another, depending on the extent of damage to the nerves. Some may experience just mild symptoms, whereas others may find it highly painful or disabling. Some of the symptoms of the condition are listed below.

  • Loss of sense of touch
  • Burning sensation in the legs and feet
  • Numbness or pain in hands and feet
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling full sooner than usual 
  • Weakness in the muscles
  • Bladder problems
  • Trouble in vision
  • Decreased or excessive sweating

Complications Resulting from Diabetic Neuropathy

In addition to the above symptoms, diabetic neuropathy can result in more severe complications, which include the following.

Digestive Issues

Diabetic Neuropathy Can Cause Digestive Issues

If nerve damage happens in the digestive tract, it can result in constipation or diarrhea. A more complicated problem that arises because of nerve damage in the digestive tract is “gastroparesis.” In a person experiencing this condition, the stomach might empty very slowly, or it might not become empty at all, which can lead to various other health issues like bloating.

Here are some tips to reduce bloating.

Poor Control of Body Temperature

Diabetic Neuropathy Causes Poor Temperature Control

Nerve damage can lead to dysfunctional sweat glands, which in turn results in poor body temperature regulation.

Urinary Problems

Diabetic Neuropathy Might Cause Urinary Problems

In some types of diabetics, the nerves controlling the urinary bladder get damaged. This can lead to urinary problems, such as urinary tract infections or incontinence. Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have demonstrated the long-term effectiveness of electrofulguration, a minimally invasive outpatient procedure for treating chronic urinary tract infections in postmenopausal women.

Can Diabetic Neuropathy Be Prevented?

Diabetic Neuropathy Can Be Prevented

Yes, it can be prevented. To do that, individuals with diabetes should maintain their blood sugar levels by monitoring their readings regularly. The medication or shots they take must be administered at the right times without fail. 

Management of blood cholesterol and blood pressure is also crucial in preventing diabetic neuropathy. Once the nerves are damaged, the condition cannot be reversed. However, further damage can be prevented with adequate treatment and guidance from the doctor. In other words, an individual having the condition can try to reduce the intensity of their symptoms with regular medication, proper diet, and regular exercise (from their doctor or healthcare provider).

Always remember that prevention is better than cure when it comes to any illness or disorder. So, people with diabetes need to be cautious about their lifestyle choices.

Foot Diabetic Neuropathy Treatment

Since diabetic neuropathy can often affect the feet, people with diabetes must take care of their feet properly. Here, we explain some treatment options for foot diabetic neuropathy.

1. Pain Management

Diabetic Neuropathy Can Be Prevented

Medications, such as over-the-counter pain relievers (e.g., acetaminophen) or prescription drugs (e.g., gabapentin, pregabalin) may be used to alleviate the pain associated with foot diabetic neuropathy. Topical treatments like lidocaine patches or capsaicin creams may also provide some relief.

2. Foot Care 

Foot Care in Diabetic Neuropathy

Proper foot care is essential in preventing complications and managing symptoms. Taking good care of your feet includes the following measures.

  • Washing and drying the feet thoroughly
  • Wearing comfortable and well-fitting shoes
  • Avoiding activities that may cause foot injuries

Also read: Home remedies to get rid of corns on feet!

3. Physical Therapy

Physical Therapy for Diabetic Neuropathy 

Exercises and physical therapy techniques can help improve strength, balance, and coordination in the feet and legs. These therapies may also help relieve pain and enhance overall mobility.

4. Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)

TENS for  Diabetic Neuropathy

TENS therapy involves using a small, battery-powered device that delivers mild electrical impulses to the affected area. This can help reduce pain and discomfort associated with diabetic neuropathy.

 

5. Alternative Therapies 

Alternative Therapies`

Some individuals find relief from complementary approaches, such as acupuncture, massage therapy, or biofeedback. While their effectiveness may vary, these treatments can be considered in conjunction with traditional medical approaches.

It is important to note that the specific treatment plan for foot diabetic neuropathy should be tailored to the individual’s needs and coordinated with a healthcare professional specializing in diabetes management or neurology.

When to See a Doctor?

Consulting Doctor for Diabetic Neuropathy 

Call your doctor or healthcare provider if you notice any of the following:

  • Any change in your digestion, sexual, or urination functions
  • Weakness or burning sensation in your feet or hands
  • A cut in your foot that is taking a long time to heal

According to studies, at least 50% of individuals with diabetes develop diabetic neuropathy. However, effective glucose control can halt the progression of diabetic neuropathy in patients with type 1 diabetes, though the effects are more modest in those with type 2 diabetes.

This study from the National Library of Medicine explains the above effects of diabetic neuropathy. You might find it interesting.

Bottom Line

As stated earlier, prevention is better than cure. So, be very cautious if you have diabetes and try to prevent diabetic neuropathy. In case you have got it already, don’t fret. Consult your doctor and discuss with them the right course of action to be taken. With a proper lifestyle and medication, you can minimize the problems that this condition causes.

FAQ :

  1. What is the best treatment for diabetic neuropathy in feet?

    The treatment for diabetic neuropathy in feet often involves a combination of approaches. These may include medications such as antidepressants, anticonvulsants, or pain relievers.

  2. Can diabetic neuropathy go away?

    Diabetic neuropathy can improve and symptoms may diminish with proper management, such as maintaining tight control of blood sugar levels, adopting a healthy lifestyle, and following prescribed treatments.

  3. What is neuropathy in diabetes?

    Neuropathy in diabetes refers to nerve damage caused by prolonged high blood sugar levels. It commonly affects the peripheral nerves, leading to symptoms such as tingling, numbness, pain, or weakness, typically in the hands and feet.

  4. How to test diabetic neuropathy?

    Diabetic neuropathy is diagnosed through physical examination, neurological tests, sensory testing, and autonomic tests. Skin biopsy and blood tests may also be used. Consulting a healthcare professional is crucial for proper evaluation and management.

  5. What is the first stage of diabetic neuropathy?

    The first stage of diabetic neuropathy is often asymptomatic or may involve mild symptoms that are easily overlooked. It typically begins with damage to the smallest nerves, causing subtle changes in sensation, such as tingling, numbness, or burning, especially in the feet and hands.