Diabetic neuropathy is a sort of nerve damage that occurs in people with diabetes. The nerve damage is caused by high blood sugar levels. Any type of nerve fiber in the body can be injured in diabetes, but diabetic neuropathy mostly damages the peripheral nerves of the legs and feet.
Diabetic neuropathy is a common but preventable complication of diabetes. Diabetic neuropathy can be prevented or at least the onset can be delayed with good control of blood sugar and a healthy lifestyle.
The symptoms of diabetic neuropathy vary with the type and site of affected nerve. Hence the symptom of diabetic neuropathy can be pain and numbness in the legs or problems with the digestive system, urinary tract, blood vessels or heart. The symptoms can be mild or severe and disabling.
Peripheral neuropathy is commonest type of diabetic neuropathy. The nerves of the feet and legs are mostly affected first. The common signs and symptoms of peripheral neuropathy are;
- Numbness or decrease in sensation (ability to feel pain or changes in temperature). This mostly starts in your feet and toes
- A tingling or burning feeling again most commonly in the feet and toes
- Sharp or piercing pain (usually worse at night)
- Pain on walking
- Increase in sensitivity to touch
- Weakness of muscle and difficulty walking
- Serious foot problems, such as foot ulcers, infections, delayed wound healing deformities, and bone and joint pain
When to see a doctor
If are a diabetic consult your doctor if;
- You have a wound or sore on your foot that is not healing or seems like the infection is getting worse
- You have burning, tingling, weakness or pain in extremities (hands or feet) which interferes with your work or sleep
- You notice changes in your digestion, urination or sexual function
These symptoms do not really indicate diabetic neuropathy but the symptoms suggest that you should get medical care to prevent them from turning into more-severe problems.
Factors that increase your risk of diabetic neuropathy
Some factors that increase the risk of nerve damage in people with diabetes include:
- Poor blood sugar control or high blood sugar
- Length of time you have diabetes—the risk of damage increases with more number of years
- Kidney disease
- There is no cure for diabetic neuropathy.
- Treatment aims to control relieve your symptoms and prevent further damage. Your doctor will recommend treatment based on your symptoms.
- Good blood glucose control is needed if you have diabetic neuropathy.
Dr Poonam Sachdeva, our in-house medical expert talks about the why what and how in diabetes.
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