When you heard you had diabetes, you anticipated the finger pricks, doctor’s appointments, and diet restrictions, but you probably never expected you’d have to deal with strange-sounding complications like neuropathy.
The truth is that as many as half of folks with diabetes wind up with neuropathy.
If you don’t know what neuropathy is or why you need to add it to your list of things to think about, turn to our experts at US Neuropathy Centers. Here, we explore the connection between diabetes and neuropathy.
Let’s start by covering the basics of neuropathy. Neuropathy (also referred to as peripheral neuropathy) is the result of damage to your peripheral nerves.
Your peripheral nerves are those that branch off of your brain and spinal cord. They send information to and from your central nervous system and the rest of your body, regulating virtually every one of your functions.
In addition to pain, tingling, and numbness, neuropathy can trigger other serious symptoms, like lack of muscle control and coordination, extreme sensitivity to touch, and in the worst cases, paralysis.
A variety of factors from traumatic injuries to infections can cause neuropathy, but diabetes is by far the most common cause. When diabetes is behind neuropathy, we call it diabetic neuropathy. Here’s how it happens.
You likely know that diabetes occurs when there’s a buildup of sugar in your bloodstream. Researchers have found that over time, uncontrolled high blood sugar damages peripheral nerves and interferes with how they send and receive signals.
It’s also possible that high blood sugar weakens the walls of the small blood vessels that supply your nerves with oxygen and nutrients.
Any diabetic can develop neuropathy, but if you’re overweight, a smoker, or struggle to manage your blood sugar, you're at an increased risk.
What’s most concerning about diabetic neuropathy is the slew of serious complications that can come from it, such as:
Additionally, you could experience a condition called hypoglycemia unawareness. This occurs when your blood sugar levels fall dangerously low, but because your nerves are damaged, you may not notice it.
There’s no known cure for diabetic neuropathy, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t steps you can take to slow its progression and relieve your symptoms.
The best way to slow or prevent diabetic neuropathy from worsening is to get and keep control of your blood sugar levels, manage your blood pressure, maintain a healthy weight, quit smoking, and prioritize physical activity.
We also recommend you closely examine your feet for cuts, ulcers, and scrapes. Diabetic neuropathy makes it difficult to sense when you’ve injured your feet. Even a small cut that goes unnoticed could turn into a serious infection.
Diabetic neuropathy is often incredibly painful. In these severe cases, we may prescribe prescription pain medication or provide a nerve stimulator to give you relief. If those don’t work, we may turn to peripheral nerve decompression surgery.
Are you interested in learning more about diabetic neuropathy? We’d love to talk with you. Call or click to schedule an appointment at our Marietta, Georgia, office.