Conditions that cause damage to your nerves are called neuropathy. Diabetic neuropathy refers to nerve damage caused due to diabetes.
Our bodies produce insulin that guides glucose into our cells to convert into energy. Sometimes, our bodies either do not produce enough insulin or are unable to use insulin in the correct manner. In such cases, glucose remains in our blood. Long-term blood glucose retention leads to a number of health complications.
Diabetic Neuropathy – All The Things You Need To Know About
The disease caused due to very high blood glucose (also called blood sugar) is called diabetes. Diabetes can lead to heart diseases, kidney diseases, eye problems, dental problems, nerve damage, foot problems and reduce the overall ability of the body to fight off diseases or heal itself.
What is diabetic neuropathy?
As discussed above, diabetes can cause nerve damage. High blood sugar can damage nerves anywhere in your body. Nerves in the legs and feet are most commonly damaged due to diabetes.
Types of diabetic neuropathy
There are four types of diabetic neuropathy.
- Peripheral neuropathy: It is the most common type of diabetic neuropathy. It affects the legs and feet first before moving on to hands and arms.
- Autonomic neuropathy: High blood sugar can affect the autonomic nervous system. This nervous system controls the heart, bladder, stomach, intestines, sex organs and eyes. Its importance cannot be stressed enough.
- Proximal neuropathy: Nerve damage is to the thighs, hips and buttocks or legs, abdominal and chest area.
- Mononeuropathy: It refers to damage of one specific nerve.
Symptoms of neuropathy
Symptoms may range from pain and numbness in your legs and arms, digestive tract problems, etc. The impact may be mild or severe leading to disabilities. Symptoms differ depending on the type of neuropathy.
- Peripheral neuropathy: Numbness, tingling or burning sensation, pain/ cramps, serious foot issues such as ulcers, infections, bone, and joint pain.
- Autonomic neuropathy: Hypoglycaemia unawareness, bladder or bowel problems, nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite, decreased sexual response.
- Proximal neuropathy: Severe pain in the hip/ thigh/ buttock, weakening and shrinking of thigh muscles, severe stomach pain, difficulty in rising from a sitting position
- Mononeuropathy: Double vision, eye ache, Bell’s palsy, numbness or tingling of your hand or fingers (except the pinkie finger), weakness in the hand.
Is nerve damage due to diabetic neuropathy reversible?
Our body cannot naturally repair nerve tissue once the damage has been done. What is left is to manage the condition. Research is ongoing on nerve damage treatment.
Here are ways to manage diabetic neuropathy:
- Lowering blood sugar
- Treating pain
- Regularly checking various parts of the body to ensure there is no wound, infection, or injury.
Doctors may prescribe medicines like pregabalin, gabapentin, duloxetine, venlafaxine, and amitriptyline to treat painful diabetic neuropathy.
Your best way to find relief is to lower blood sugar. Here are some ways to lower your blood glucose levels:
- Avoid sugar and fructose foods and beverages completely.
- Include high fiber foods in your daily diet. Fibers help maintain blood sugar levels.
- Include vegetable and plant-based protein in your diet, such as chia seeds, beans, tofu, quinoa, seitan, chickpeas, green peas, etc.
- Exercise every day. Include cardio exercises and a weight training routine.
- Constantly monitor blood sugar levels to help find unusual changes.
- Take your medicines as prescribed. Do not miss a single dose.
As the most common type of diabetic neuropathy is peripheral neuropathy, please pay more attention to your legs and feet. It can lead to reduced sensation or perception of pain. If you hurt your feet, you may not feel it at all. Hence, you need to follow some simple tips to ensure your feet and legs are in tiptop condition.
- Check your feet for open wounds or injuries every day.
- Make sure your toenails are short and do not grow. Overgrown toenails can cause damage when you try to scratch an itch or bump into something causing the nail to rip off.
- Maintain proper foot hygiene. Cleanse your feet with soap and water whenever you come home from outside.
- Maintain regular appointments with a podiatrist.
- Do not walk barefoot, even inside the house.