Diabetic neuropathy is a common complication of diabetes. It is damage to the nerves which prevents an individual from feeling sensations such as pain. There are a number of ways that diabetes damages the nerves, but they all seem related to blood sugar being too high for a long period of time.
Nerve damage caused by diabetes leads to numbness and sometimes pain and weakness in the hands, arms, feet, and legs. Diabetes-related nerve damage can be painful, but it isn't severe pain in most cases and therefore commonly overlooked by the patient.
Read: Diabetes and the nerves
There are four types of diabetic neuropathy: peripheral, autonomic, proximal, and focal.
• Peripheral neuropathy, the most common condition causes pain or loss of feeling in the hands, arms, feet, and legs.
• Autonomic neuropathy can cause changes in digestion, bowel and bladder control problems, and erectile dysfunction, and it can affect the nerves that serve the heart and control blood pressure.
• Proximal neuropathy produces pain in the thighs and hips and weakness in the legs.
• Focal neuropathy can strike any nerve in the body, causing pain or weakness.
Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy
The areas of the body most commonly affected by diabetic peripheral neuropathy are the feet and legs. Nerve damage in the feet can result in a loss of foot sensation, increasing your risk of foot problems. Injuries and sores on the feet may go unrecognized due to lack of sensation. Therefore, you should practice proper skin and foot care. Rarely, other areas of the body such as the arms, abdomen, and back may be affected.
Symptoms of diabetic peripheral neuropathy may include:
• Numbness (severe or long-term numbness can become permanent)
• Burning (especially in the evening)
In most cases, early symptoms of diabetic peripheral neuropathy will become less when blood sugar is under control. Medications can be taken to help control the discomfort if needed.
To prevent peripheral neuropathy:
• Work with your healthcare provider to keep your blood glucose under tight control
To help prevent the complications of peripheral neuropathy:
• Examine your feet and legs daily for any injury or abnormal changes
• Apply moisturiser if your feet are dry
• Care for your toe nails regularly. (Go to a podiatrist, if necessary).
• Wear properly fitting footwear and wear them at all times to prevent foot injury.