Diabetic Neuropathy: Nerve disorders and damage
Diabetic Neuropathy (nerve damage) is the most common complication of diabetes.
Diabetic Neuropathy affects different parts of the body, and the symptoms may vary according to the part of the body affected.
1 :: Peripheral Neuropathy Affects the peripheral nerves, most commonly the nerves of the feet, legs, arms and hands.
2 :: Proximal Neuropathy Affects the nerves in the legs, thighs, hips, or buttocks.
3 :: Autonomic Neuropathy This type affects the digestive system. It can also affect the heart, sex organs, lungs, urinary system, eyes and the blood vessels.
4 :: Focal Neuropathy Affects a specific nerve or area at any site in the body.
- Prolonged high levels of blood sugar
- Damage to blood vessels
- Inflammation in the nerves
- Genetic factors
- Smoking and Alcohol abuse
- Poor blood sugar control
- Suffering with diabetes since a long duration
- Damage to the kidneys due to diabetes may increase the toxins in the blood, leading to nerve damage
- Coronary artery disease
- Elevated triglyceride levels
- High blood pressure
Signs and symptoms of diabetic neuropathy vary depending on the type of neuropathy and the type of nerve affected. Some of the commonly experienced symptoms are
- Tingling & numbness
- Burning and pain in the hands and legs
- Loss of sensation
- Nausea or vomiting
- Constipation and/or Diarrhoea
- Urinary complaints
- Sexual complaints
- Increased Heart rate
- Fluctuating Blood pressure
- Wasting of muscles
- Overall Weakness
Apart from the physical examination and medical history, few other tests conducted to diagnose diabetic neuropathy are as follows
1 :: Complete assessment of diabetes and blood pressure control; (evaluates the electrical activity in muscles)
2 :: Nerve conduction studies (measures the flow of electrical current through the nerves)
3 :: Filament test (measures the sensitivity to touch)
4 :: Quantitative sensory testing (determines the nerves response to vibration and changes in temperature)
5 :: Autonomic testing (assesses blood pressure in different positions and determines the ability to sweat), in cases of autonomic neuropathy
6 :: Foot examination (Check for cracked skin, sores, blisters, calluses, bone and joint abnormalities)
As there is no way to repair or replace the damaged nerves, treatment of Diabetic Neuropathy is not possible. Management shall help in decreasing the existing symptoms and preventing the worsening of the condition. Management is dependent on the symptoms and type of Neuropathy. Below mentioned treatment can help in reducing the discomfort and pain caused by Diabetic Neuropathy
1 :: Keep blood sugar levels in control
2 :: Take proper care of your feet
3 :: Follow up with the physician at regular intervals
4 :: Control blood pressure
5 :: Medications such as pain relievers, antidepressants, etc. are prescribed
6 :: Surgery is sometimes indicated to rectify deformed joints
7 :: Complementary therapies such as acupuncture and biofeedback can be beneficial
8 :: Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation helps in reducing the pain
1 :: Controlling blood sugar levels by regular monitoring, taking medications, meal planning and performing regular exercises
2 :: Taking daily care of the foot by keeping the feet clean and dry. Use of properly fitted footwear is essential
3 :: Adapting a healthy lifestyle by – eating a healthy diet, rectifying vitamin deficiencies, losing weight, avoiding alcohol, etc.
4 :: Avoidance or cessation of smoking