Peripheral neuropathy is one of the most common complications of diabetes. While most of the focus is on sensory neuropathy and the associated symptoms (pain, tingling, burning and numbness in the feet and legs are the most commonly reported), autonomic neuropathy may be of even greater concern. Studies have reported of prevalence of 20-40% for autonomic neuropathy in patients with type 2 diabetes. Diabetic autonomic neuropathy (DAN) is among the least recognized and understood complications of diabetes, despite its significant negative impact on survival and quality of life in people with diabetes.
At US Neuropathy Centers, our doctors understand the importance of proper diagnosis. With centers around the US, our team of specialists are available to help.
Autonomic neuropathy can cause changes in digestion, bowel and bladder function, sexual response, and perspiration. It can also affect the nerves that serve the heart and control blood pressure, as well as nerves in the lungs and eyes. Autonomic neuropathy can also cause hypoglycemia unawareness, a condition in which people no longer experience the warning symptoms of low blood glucose levels.
The reported mortality rate of diabetic patients with abnormal autonomic function tests is 53% after 5 years, compared with a mortality rate of only 15% among diabetic patients with normal autonomic function test results.
DAN frequently coexists with other peripheral neuropathies and other diabetic complications, but DAN may be isolated, frequently preceding the detection of other complications. Disruption of skin blood flow and sweat gland function may be among the earliest manifestations of DAN and lead to dry skin, loss of sweating, and the development of fissures and cracks that allow microorganisms to enter. These changes ultimately contribute to the development of ulcers, gangrene, and limb loss.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that people with type 2 diabetes be screened every year for autonomic neuropathy starting as soon as they receive their diabetes diagnosis. For people with type 1 diabetes, the ADA advises annual screening beginning five years after being diagnosed with diabetes.
If you suffer from diabetes, it is important that you are on the lookout for nerve related problems. Contact your local US Neuropathy Center today. Be proactive about your health!
The advice and information contained in this article is for educational purposes only, and is not intended to replace or counter a physician’s advice or judgment. Please always consult your physician before taking any advice learned here or in any other educational medical material.
@US Neuropathy Centers, 2018