Diabetic neuropathy is a diabetic complication that causes pain, numbness and tingling in the feet and
Living with diabetes is never easy, especially when it comes to managing the numerous complications that can arise from having high blood sugar levels.
One complication we can potentially face with diabetes is diabetic peripheral neuropathy – a type of nerve damage that affects the hands and feet.
We’ll explore what diabetic peripheral neuropathy is, its symptoms, available treatments, and the medical experts you can consult for assistance.
What is Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy?
Diabetic peripheral neuropathy is a type of nerve damage that can occur when high blood glucose levels damage the nerves that send signals to the hands and feet.
This can result in a lack of sensation or abnormal sensations, such as tingling, numbness, or a burning sensation.
If left untreated, diabetic peripheral neuropathy can even result in the loss of limb function.
Meeting target blood sugars halts the progression of diabetic neuropathy in patients with type 1 diabetes, but the effects are more modest in those with type 2 diabetes.
What are the Symptoms of Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy?
In the early stages of diabetic peripheral neuropathy, you may experience no symptoms at all.
However, as the condition progresses, you may start to experience numbness, tingling, or pain in the hands, feet, arms, or legs.
Other symptoms may include muscle weakness, difficulty walking, and a loss of coordination and balance.
Risk Factors for Peripheral Neuropathy
Several factors increase the likelihood of developing diabetic peripheral neuropathy. These include:
- Out-of-range blood sugar levels: Consistently high blood sugar levels can damage nerves over time, leading to neuropathy.
- Duration of diabetes: The longer you have diabetes, the higher the risk of developing neuropathy.
- Smoking: Smoking narrows blood vessels and reduces blood flow to the extremities, increasing the risk of nerve damage.
- Obesity: Excess weight puts additional strain on nerves, increasing the risk of neuropathy.
- High blood pressure: Hypertension can damage blood vessels, impairing circulation to the nerves.
- High cholesterol levels: Elevated cholesterol levels can lead to narrowed blood vessels, affecting nerve health.
What Treatments Are Available for Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy?
There is no cure for diabetic peripheral neuropathy, but there are a variety of treatment options available to help manage the symptoms.
Pain medications, both over-the-counter and prescription, can help relieve the discomfort and tingling sensations.
Additionally, lifestyle changes such as regular exercise and a healthy diet can help improve blood sugar control and prevent further nerve damage.
For severe cases, medical procedures such as nerve decompression may be suggested.
This involves releasing the trapped nerves in the hands and feet, which can help alleviate pain and improve motor function.
Physical therapy may also be recommended to help improve muscle strength and coordination.
A physical therapist can design an exercise program tailored to your specific needs, helping you manage symptoms and maintain mobility.
When Should You Consult a Medical Professional?
If you are experiencing any symptoms of diabetic peripheral neuropathy, it is important to consult a medical professional as soon as possible.
Early detection and treatment can help prevent further nerve damage and improve overall quality of life.
If you have been diagnosed with diabetic peripheral neuropathy, there are several medical experts you can consult for assistance.
Your primary care physician can help you manage your blood sugar levels and may refer you to a specialist such as a neurologist or an endocrinologist
Additionally, physical therapists and occupational therapists can assist with mobility and coordination issues caused by nerve damage.
You should also schedule regular check-ups with your primary care physician or endocrinologist to monitor your blood sugar levels and address any concerns
Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy Prevention Strategies
To minimize the risk of developing diabetic peripheral neuropathy, you can work with your care team to implement some of these strategies.
Medication and Blood Sugar Management
- Work closely with your healthcare provider to manage your diabetes effectively.
- Follow the prescribed medication regimen and monitor blood sugar levels regularly.
- Keep track of your A1C levels, aiming for the target range recommended by your healthcare team.
- Maintain a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
- Pair fat, fiber, and protein together for blood sugar balance.
- Limit the consumption of sugary foods and beverages.
- Consult a registered dietitian to develop a personalized meal plan that suits your needs and helps control blood sugar levels.
- Work with a health coach between your doctor’s appointments to be sure you’re staying on the right track and getting accountability and a realistic perspective of diabetes management.
- Engage in physical activities regularly, such as brisk walking, cycling, swimming, or any activity that gets your heart pumping.
- Consult your healthcare provider before starting any exercise program and follow their recommendations.
- If you smoke, seek support and resources to quit smoking.
- Smoking cessation not only reduces the risk of neuropathy but also improves overall health.
Routine Screening and Early Intervention:
- Visit your healthcare provider regularly for routine check-ups.
- Discuss any symptoms or concerns related to neuropathy during these visits.
- Your healthcare provider may recommend screening tests to detect early signs of neuropathy, allowing for timely intervention.
Please note that before introducing any new products or supplements into your routine, it’s crucial to consult with your healthcare provider to ensure they are safe and appropriate for your individual needs.
To Sum It Up
Though it may seem daunting to live with diabetic peripheral neuropathy, there are many options available to help manage the symptoms.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with this condition, it’s important to work closely with your healthcare provider to find the best course of treatment.
With the right approach, you can continue to live a happy and healthy life while managing the complications of diabetes.
Additionally, by taking proactive measures and making positive lifestyle changes, you can significantly reduce the risk of developing diabetic peripheral neuropathy.
Remember to manage blood sugar levels effectively, maintain a healthy diet, exercise regularly, quit smoking, and undergo routine screenings.
Feldman, Eva L. et al. “Diabetic neuropathy.” Nature reviews. Disease primers vol. 5,1 42. 13 Jun. 2019, doi:10.1038/s41572-019-0097-9: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31197183/