Diabetic neuropathy is a type of nerve damage that can occur if you have diabetes. High blood sugar (glucose) can injure nerves throughout your body. Diabetic neuropathy most often damages nerves in your legs and feet.
Depending on the affected nerves, diabetic neuropathy symptoms can range from pain and numbness in your legs and feet to problems with your digestive system, urinary tract, blood vessels and heart. Some people have mild symptoms. But for others, diabetic neuropathy can be quite painful and disabling.
Diabetic neuropathy is a serious diabetes complication that may affect as many as 50% of people with diabetes. But you can often prevent diabetic neuropathy or slow its progress with consistent blood sugar management and a healthy lifestyle.
What The Symptoms?
There are four main types of diabetic neuropathy. You can have one type or more than one type of neuropathy.
Your symptoms will depend on the type you have and which nerves are affected. Usually, symptoms develop gradually. You may not notice anything is wrong until considerable nerve damage has occurred.
- Peripheral neuropathy
This type of neuropathy may also be called distal symmetric peripheral neuropathy. It’s the most common type of diabetic neuropathy. It affects the feet and legs first, followed by the hands and arms. Signs and symptoms of peripheral neuropathy are often worse at night, and may include:
- Autonomic neuropathy
The autonomic nervous system controls your heart, bladder, stomach, intestines, sex organs and eyes. Diabetes can affect nerves in any of these areas, possibly causing:
- Proximal neuropathy (diabetic polyradiculopathy)
This type of neuropathy — also called diabetic amyotrophy — often affects nerves in the thighs, hips, buttocks or legs. It can also affect the abdominal and chest area. Symptoms are usually on one side of the body, but may spread to the other side. You may have:
- Mononeuropathy (focal neuropathy)
There are two types of mononeuropathy — cranial and peripheral. Mononeuropathy refers to damage to a specific nerve.
What Are the Causes and Complications Involved?
The exact cause of each type of neuropathy is unknown. Researchers think that over time, uncontrolled high blood sugar damages nerves and interferes with their ability to send signals, leading to diabetic neuropathy. High blood sugar also weakens the walls of the small blood vessels (capillaries) that supply the nerves with oxygen and nutrients.
Diabetic neuropathy can cause a number of serious complications, including Hypoglycemia unawareness, sweating and a fast heartbeat. But if you have autonomic neuropathy, you may not notice these warning signs. Nerve damage can make you lose feeling in your feet, so even minor cuts can turn into sores or ulcers without your realizing it. In severe cases, an infection can spread to the bone or lead to tissue death. Removal (amputation) of a toe, foot or even the lower leg may be necessary.
As per the report by Fact.MR the approval of novel drugs for the treatment of diabetic neuropathic pain has led to a major uptick in the diabetic neuropathy market. The recent COVID-19 pandemic is not anticipated to limit production of novel drugs or supplies of insulin to hospitals or pharmacies, attributed to increased functional capacity of manufacturing plants of leading players across the world.
You can prevent or delay diabetic neuropathy and its complications by closely managing your blood sugar and taking good care of your feet. Foot problems, including sores that don’t heal, ulcers and even amputation, are common complications of diabetic neuropathy. But you can prevent many of these problems by having a thorough foot exam at least once a year, having your doctor check your feet at each office visit and taking good care of your feet at home.
Take good care of your feet. Check your feet every day. If you no longer can feel pain in your feet, you might not notice a foot injury. Instead, use your eyes to look for problems. Use a mirror to see the bottoms of your feet. Use your hands to feel for hot or cold spots, bumps or dry skin. Look for sores, cuts or breaks in the skin. Also check for corns, calluses, blisters, red areas, swelling, ingrown toenails and toenail infections. If it’s hard for you to see or reach your feet, get help from a family member or foot doctor.
Protect your feet. If your feet are dry, use a lotion on your skin but not between your toes. Wear shoes and socks that fit well and wear them all the time. Use warm water to wash your feet, and dry them carefully afterward. Get special shoes if needed. If you have foot problems, Medicare may pay for shoes. Ask your health care team about it. Be careful with exercising. Some physical activities are not safe for people with neuropathy. Talk with a diabetes clinical exercise expert who can guide you.
There’s a lot you can do to prevent or delay nerve damage. And, if you already have diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage), these steps can prevent or delay further damage and may lessen your symptoms.