Diabetic Neuropathy: A Painful Problem of Diabetes

by Editorial Board on March 25, 2011 · 1 comment

in Endocrine System

The pain that accompanies diabetes is usually due to damage to the nerves as a result of prolonged high glucose levels. This damage, called neuropathy, causes sensations that may be painful, and can have other more serious consequences. Diabetic neuropathy may also contribute to painful bone and joint disorders. Peripheral neuropathy and autonomic neuropathy are the two types of diabetic neuropathies.

Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy most commonly affects the feet and legs, but can also affect the hands. While most people with diabetic peripheral neuropathy do not feel pain, some do feel numbness, tingling, burning, a “pins and needles” sensation, or pain. People with diabetes usually have legs that are not sensitive to heat and cold, yet very sensitive to even a light touch. Their leg muscles may become weak, and they may develop sores or ulcers that are slow to heal. The pain and burning sensation can become severe if untreated. Peripheral neuropathy can have serious consequences up to and including amputation.

If you have diabetes, you can take steps to prevent peripheral neuropathy:

  • Wash your feet and check them for blisters, cuts, and calluses every day. Have your doctor examine your feet at least once a year.
  • Apply lotion to your feet if they are dry, but keep the skin between the toes dry.
  • If you have a sore on your feet or wounds that doesn’t go away in a few days contact your doctor because it is very important to avoid an infection.
  • Regularly trim your toenails straight across.
  • Don’t go barefoot. Wear shoes and clean, dry socks, even indoors.
  • Wear shoes that fit properly so you don’t get blisters. Some people will get special shoes prescribed for people with diabetes.
  • Quit smoking if you smoke.
  • Control your blood sugar, blood cholesterol, and blood pressure.

Autonomic Neuropathy

Autonomic neuropathy usually affects the nerves of the digestive system, heart, blood vessels, urinary system, and sex organs. Symptoms and treatments depend on the part or parts of your body involved. Problems to look for include chronic constipation or diarrhea, problems with urination and with sex, faintness or dizziness when you first stand up, and changes in the way you sweat. Keeping your blood glucose levels under control is the best way to prevent autonomic neuropathy.

Treating Diabetic Neuropathy

About half of all people with diabetes have some nerve pain that interferes with life’s daily activities. Pain from diabetic neuropathy can be bad enough to be disabling for some. Exercise, diet, and glucose control are the first steps to treating diabetic neuropathy. While there is no cure for diabetic neuropathy, doctors can suggest medications and lifestyle changes that can help you cope with the pain and discomfort.

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diabetic neuropathy April 13, 2011 at 8:05 am

What a dreadful complication of diabetes. I’m wondering how much of the general public unknowingly has diabetes and isn’t aware of its dangers.

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