One of the central body systems attacked by poorly controlled diabetes is the nervous system. 40% of people with diabetes have some abnormality of the nervous system. (2)
Diabetic neuropathy is the most common nerve disease in those who have had diabetes the longest. But usually don’t realize it because this condition doesn’t have any early symptoms.
Read on to find out what diabetic neuropathy is, its symptoms, causes, and how it can be prevented and diagnosed.
What is diabetic neuropathy?
Diabetic neuropathy is a common and severe complication of type 1 and types two diabetes. It is a type of nerve damage caused by high blood sugar levels. The condition usually develops slowly, sometimes over several decades.
The main problem with diabetic neuropathy
is the high incidence of infections, ulcerations, and issues in the extremities, usually in the feet.
It is not yet known how high glucose levels damage nerves.
What is known is that the part of the nerve called the axon is the one that is affected.
Researchers believe that the damage is due to a cut in the blood supply to the nerve and the effect of chemical toxins produced as residues of glucose metabolism, among others.
What Causes Diabetic Neuropathy?
Diabetic neuropathy is caused by having high blood sugar levels for an extended period. In addition, other factors can cause nerve damage, such as:
- High cholesterol levels
- Age – neuropathy is more common after age 40.
- Lifestyle factors – alcohol and smoking
- Height – neuropathy is more common in tall people with longer nerve fibers.
- Low levels of vitamin B-12 can also cause neuropathy. Metformin, a common drug used to control diabetes, can decrease levels of vitamin B-12. You can ask your doctor for a simple blood test to identify a vitamin deficiency in your body.
- Mechanical injury – such as injuries caused by carpal tunnel syndrome
Various disorders of the nervous system can give rise to different symptoms. Some of them are loss of sensation, pain in the feet and hands, loss of mobility and balance, and strength in the muscles.
However, if you follow the recommendations listed below and your doctor’s, your symptoms will likely improve. In some cases, the neuropathy even goes away.
The following are the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy in more detail:
- Loss of movement and coordination – if the nerves in the muscles are affected, it can cause difficulty moving.
- Loss of touch, pain, or burning in the feet and hands – people with diabetic neuropathy, particularly peripheral neuropathy, often notice changes in the sense of touch, pain or temperature, or a tingling or burning sensation. Symptoms are generally most muscular at night.
- Loss of muscle strength in the muscles – Usually, this occurs in the upper leg; this causes the person not to be able to stretch the knee well and causes pain that can extend from the hip to the thigh.
- Bladder abnormalities – starting with a loss of
- I am feeling fullness in the bladder.
- Sexual dysfunction – in 50% of men (impotence) with diabetes and 30 percent of women with diabetes.
- Intestinal abnormalities – Diabetic diarrhea, nausea, vomiting.
- Heart abnormalities – from loss of nerves to the heart.
- I am sweating problems – especially on the feet.
- Vision problems – Double vision, abnormalities of the pupil of the eye.
Diagnosis of neuropathy in diabetics
A doctor will determine whether or not you have neuropathy, starting by asking about your symptoms and medical history.
They will also do a physical exam. Your doctor can perform different tests that test the response of your nerves to various stimuli. They will check your sensitivity to temperature and touch, heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tone. These tests are:
- Light touch test – perhaps the most critical test tests nerve fibers that detect anything that touches our skin.
- Temperature testing – using a hot or cold object, measure possible damage to tiny nerve fibers.
- Vibration test – using a tuning fork or a bathometer machine reveals abnormalities of the larger nerve fibers.
How to prevent diabetic neuropathy?
Diabetic neuropathy can generally be prevented by checking your blood glucose levels regularly. You can reduce nerve damage and symptoms with proper care and avoid complications.
To prevent neuropathy, you must:
- Check your blood glucose levels frequently
- Control your diet
- Lead a physically active lifestyle
- If you take medications, take them according to their prescription
- Work in collaboration with your doctor
How is it treated?
While there is no cure for diabetic neuropathy, it can slow and prevent its progression. Keeping your blood sugar levels within a healthy range is the best way to lower your chance of developing severe diabetic neuropathy. Also, this can ease your symptoms.
Making lifestyle changes like eating healthy, quitting smoking, and exercising is part of a comprehensive treatment plan. You can also ask your doctor about complementary treatments or supplements for neuropathy.
Depending on your type of neuropathy, your doctor may suggest medications, insulin, therapies, or lifestyle changes that can help cope with symptoms and avoid complications.
You may also consider alternative therapies, such as acupuncture or yoga. Alternative therapies can provide additional relief when used in conjunction with medications.
Neuropathy and diabetic foot
People with diabetes are prone to various foot problems due to peripheral neuropathy. This can cause numbness, burning, tingling, and foot ulcers.
However, well-treated diabetic feet can be healthy. This requires a little more care from you and
your diabetes care team.
The key to healthy feet is prevention, and constant care is best to achieve good long-term results.
Some tips for diabetic foot care are:
- Check your feet every day, including the sole (if it is difficult, you can use a mirror)
- Wear suitable shoes and socks made of cotton
- Take care of your skin – applying a urea-based moisturizer twice a week can help keep your skin hydrated
- Take care of your nails and use files to smooth them
- Request a medical evaluation
If you have diabetic neuropathy and cannot feel your feet, you should not do exercises with blows that can damage your feet. However, you can swim, bike, row, or do chair exercises where you move your upper body.
Diabetic neuropathy is a condition that affects the nerves from having high blood sugar levels for a long time.
The symptoms can be various, although it generally affects the extremities such as the hands and feet.
The causes of neuropathy in diabetics are still not entirely clear. However, some factors such as high cholesterol levels, age, lifestyle, and the lack of specific vitamins in the diet can be risk factors.
If you experience any symptoms, consult your doctor or medical team. They will tell you which is the most appropriate treatment.