It’s no secret that diabetes is one of the most common chronic illnesses — and a leading cause of pain, disability, and death — in the United States. What you may not know, however, is that this serious and complex condition affects over 30 million Americans.
If you think that’s alarming, the detailed facts and figures are even more distressing: Type 2 diabetes, the kind that can largely be prevented with healthy lifestyle choices, accounts for up to 95% of all diabetes cases, and a full 25% of those who are living with the disease aren’t aware that they have it.
Without attentive management, diabetes can give rise to a variety of complications, ranging from heart disease and kidney failure to blindness. Often, these serious problems are preceded by another insidious complication known as diabetic peripheral neuropathy, which is nerve damage. Here’s what you should know.
Diabetic peripheral neuropathy basics
Diabetes is a systemic illness that interferes with the way your body processes the glucose (sugar) in your diet. In Type 1 diabetes, your pancreas stops producing insulin, the hormone that helps transport glucose into your cells so it can be used for energy. Without insulin, dietary sugars simply build up in your bloodstream.
Type 2 diabetes develops when your pancreas can’t produce enough insulin to keep up with demand. It can also occur if your body cells become insulin resistant, meaning they no longer respond normally to insulin signals. As with Type 1 diabetes, the inability to seamlessly process glucose causes it to build up in your bloodstream.
When diabetes isn’t managed properly (or at all, as is the case for those who don’t know they have the disease), it can lead to major fluctuations in blood sugar or chronically high levels.
Diabetic peripheral neuropathy occurs when persistently high blood sugar levels damage your nerves and the small blood vessels that supply them with a steady supply of oxygen and nutrients.
Diabetic peripheral neuropathy symptoms
If you have diabetes, keeping your blood sugar levels under control can help you stay healthy, but it won’t necessarily reduce your risk of developing peripheral neuropathy.
The complication is so common, in fact, that as many as one in two diabetes patients have it — and many don’t know it until they experience significant symptoms.
Because damaged nerves transmit messages more slowly, at the wrong time, or not at all, diabetic peripheral neuropathy can manifest itself in a variety of ways. Some people experience ongoing tingling or burning sensations, for example, while others report numbness or a reduced ability to feel pain or changes in temperature.
Most people feel the effects of peripheral neuropathy in their legs and feet first, followed by their arms and hands. When allowed to progress, diabetic peripheral neuropathy often leads to muscle weakness, diminished balance and coordination, and serious foot problems, including ulcers and infections.
Diabetic peripheral neuropathy treatment
For decades, diabetes and diabetic peripheral neuropathy were treated as life-long conditions that could be effectively managed, but not cured. Patients were told they could control both conditions by taking their diabetes medications as prescribed, following a recommended diet, and getting regular exercise.
While healthy lifestyle habits are certainly beneficial, today’s diabetes experts have a much deeper understanding of the disease and its complications. In addition to discovering that some cases of Type 2 diabetes can actually be reversed with diet and weight loss, especially with bariatric surgery, they’ve also figured out how to reverse diabetic peripheral neuropathy with surgery.
Peripheral nerve decompression surgery is an advanced and highly effective treatment for diabetic peripheral neuropathy that helps reverse symptoms of tingling, numbness, and pain. The treatment also restores normal sensation, improves balance and motor function, and prevents ulceration.
Much like the surgical procedure that addresses carpal tunnel syndrome, peripheral nerve decompression surgery is designed to relieve pressure on the problematic nerve which in many cases can restore sensation, improve muscle strength, and reduce pain. This type of surgery can prevent or decrease the likelihood of ulceration and amputation.
Although many diabetic patients raise concerns about having surgery, the complication rate for peripheral nerve decompression surgery is very low. In fact, most patients are able to walk the same day as their procedure.
To learn more about diabetic peripheral neuropathy and its innovative surgical solution, call your nearest US Neuropathy Centers office in Atlanta or Marietta, Georgia, today, or click the online booking tool to schedule a visit with one of our neuropathy experts any time.