Nerve damage caused by diabetes is known as Diabetic Neuropathy. Often high blood sugar levels are found in people with diabetes. Nerves throughout our body can be damaged by high blood sugar levels over a period of time. Diabetic neuropathy is of following types.
1. Damage to peripheral nerves is known as Peripheral Neuropathy. These are nerves that sense pain, touch, heat and cold. Movement and muscle strength are affected when these nerves are damaged. The parts most affected are the nerves in the feet and lower legs. Serious foot problems occur when these nerves are damaged. Over a period of months and years there is a slow worsening of the damage done.
2. Damage to the autonomic nerves is known as Autonomic Neuropathy. Activities like our heartbeat, blood pressure, sweating, digestion, urination and sexual function are controlled by these nerves.
3. Just one nerve, usually in the wrist, thigh or foot is affected by Focal Neuropathy. The nerves of our back, chest and those that control our eye muscles can also be affected by it. Such type of nerve damage usually occurs suddenly.
One of the causes of diabetic neuropathy is the damage to the nerves throughout our body, owing to high sugar levels. Hence, it is very important that we control our blood sugar levels throughout our life. It is more likely that we may have nerve damage as we grow older and with longer duration of us having diabetes. People who have diabetes and also consume alcohol are likely to get diabetic neuropathy faster. Diabetic neuropathy occurs in about half of all people suffering from diabetes.
The symptoms depend on the nature of injury to the nerves. We are unable to feel the pain, especially in our feet, which can lead to serious infections. Owing to non-treatment this could result in sores and other allied problems. The symptoms that affect other parts of our body are problems with digestion, body temperature, urination, sexual, heart and blood vessels and feeling of numbness due to high blood sugar levels.
Diabetic Neuropathy can be diagnosed by our doctor by ascertaining how well we respond to light touch and temperature, along with the test for our strength and our reflexes. To confirm the diagnosis, tests are conducted in the form of electromyogram or emg and nerve conduction studies. We have to undergo other tests for detection of the type of neuropathy we have and for helping to chart out our treatment. It is not convenient for doctors to test for all types of nerve damage. Hence, it is necessary to acquaint the doctor about any pain or weakness that we might feel. Also it is advisable to mention about heavy sweating or dizziness and any changes in digestion, urination, and sexual function.
The treatment comprises of keeping blood sugar levels near normal, which will not cure nerve damage but can prevent the worsening of the damage. The symptoms of pain can be treated with medicines such as duloxetine, and digestive problems or blood vessel problems can be treated with medicines such as alpha lipoic acid. Blood pressure problems and sexual problems can also be treated with medicines or other medical devices. For pinched nerves a splint or brace may be used.
Some feeling in our feet might diminish which is common in diabetes. We might also experience sores or other foot problems which necessitate checking our feet every day, since an untreated problem on our foot can turn into a serious infection and lead to eventual amputation. Our doctor should be properly briefed about what is helping us feel better and what is not. This will enable our doctor to find the right line of treatment.
Diabetic Neuropathy can best be prevented by keeping our blood sugar levels near normal thereby delaying the progression of the disease. The best way to achieve this is by maintaining our weight at ideal levels, regular exercise and eating healthy foods.
This helpful information should answer the oft repeated question of what is diabetic neuropathy.