Neuropathy

Diabetic Neuropathy:

Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the entire body causing damage and dysfunction. Almost all the complications of diabetes are a result of the damage to the blood vessels and the nerves. When damage occurs to the nerves of the body, it is called diabetic neuropathy. Diabetic neuropathy leads to numerous complications including diabetic foot disease, a leading cause for foot amputations.

People who have poor control over their diabetes and have persistent high blood sugar levels have damage to their nerve fibers at the cellular level. This leads to diabetic neuropathy. Depending upon the type of nerve fibers that are damaged, there can be different types of diabetic neuropathy.
However, it should be noted that diabetic neuropathy can affect all the organs of the body including the heart, sexual organs, digestive tract and others.
Peripheral Neuropathy
When there is damage to the sensory and motor nerves, it is called peripheral neuropathy. This is a common form of neuropathy and often affects the extremities (arms, legs).

Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy:

  • Numbness, tingling sensation in the affected area (feet, legs, toes, fingers, and hands).
  • Wasting of muscles.
  • Loss of sensation or extremely sensitive to touch.
  • Pain.
  • Cramping.

Due to diabetes, there is damage to the blood vessels. This damage results in lack of oxygenated blood supply to the nerves leading to damage and neuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy can also result in lack of reflexes, muscle weakness, and foot deformities.
When there is peripheral neuropathy of the foot, there is lack of sensation due to reduced blood supply to the nerves of the feet. This causes reduced immunity and the foot is more prone to injuries and infections.
What starts as a small sore or a canker can result in an ulcer that does not heal. In some cases, it can even lead to amputation of the foot.

How to prevent peripheral neuropathy

  • Have strict control over diabetes. Reach your target blood glucose levels with diet, nutrition, exercise, and medication.
  • Self-monitoring of blood glucose levels.
  • Control blood pressure.
  • Maintain cholesterol levels.
  • Avoid smoking and alcohol.
  • Avoid injuries and sores to the feet by wearing protective diabetic footwear.
  • Get periodical foot examinations as recommended by your doctor.

Autonomic Neuropathy

When the involuntary nerves that control the functions of the heart, digestive tract, blood vessels, sexual organs and others are affected by diabetes, it leads to a condition called autonomic neuropathy.
Symptoms of autonomic neuropathy

  • Excessive sweating.
  • Pain in the neck, arm, back, or stomach.
  • Nausea, vomiting.
  • Lightheadedness.
  • Alternating diarrhea and constipation.
  • Bladder/fecal incontinence.
  • Decreased sexual drive with erectile dysfunction or vaginal infections.
  • Fluctuating blood pressure.
  • Feeling dizzy or fainting.

How to prevent autonomic neuropathy

  • Maintain tight control over your diabetes.
  • Self-monitoring of blood glucose levels.
  • Controlling cholesterol.
  • Take B-12 vitamin supplementation as per doctor’s advice.
  • Avoid alcohol and smoking.
  • Get periodical tests for neuropathy.

Proximal Neuropathy

This type of neuropathy is less common. It is also called diabetic amyotrophy. This painful nerve damage occurs mostly in people with type 2 diabetes. It starts with pain in the legs, thighs, buttocks, and hips. It can cause weakness in the affected areas and can even impair movement.
This condition is caused due to changes in the immunity system because of diabetes and can be avoided with tight control over diabetes and lifestyle modifications.
Focal Neuropathy
This kind of diabetic neuropathy comes in suddenly and might subside in a matter of weeks or months. However, this condition is very painful and can cause nerve entrapments.

Symptoms of focal neuropathy

  • Chest pain that can be mistaken as heart attack.
  • Abdominal pain and stomachache that can be mistaken as appendicitis.
  • Facial paralysis.
  • Pain in the pelvis, in the front of the thigh, behind the eye, and carpal-tunnel syndrome.

How to prevent focal neuropathy

  • Quit smoking and alcohol.
  • Maintain your target blood sugar levels.
  • Maintain cholesterol levels.
  • Self-monitoring of blood glucose levels.
  • Get proper diet and exercise.
  • Get periodical medical examinations as suggested by the doctor.