If you are a diabetic, then you may be at risk for developing diabetic neuropathy. Diabetic neuropathy is a serious complication that can occur as a result of diabetes. It is a condition that affects the nerves and can cause pain, tingling, numbness, and weakness in the feet and hands. In this blog post, we will discuss what diabetic neuropathy is, and how you can avoid it!
What Is Diabetic Neuropathy?
Diabetic neuropathy is a complication of diabetes that affects the nerves. It can cause pain, tingling, numbness, and weakness in the feet and hands. Diabetic neuropathy may also affect other parts of the body such as the eyes, heart, and digestive system. Diabetic neuropathy typically develops over time as a result of high blood sugar levels and can worsen if not properly managed.
Symptoms of Diabetic Neuropathy
The symptoms of Diabetic Neuropathy can vary depending on the type of neuropathy. Common symptoms include:
- Numbness or tingling in the feet and hands
- Burning, stabbing, or shooting pain
- Weakness in the legs and arms
- Loss of balance and coordination
- Difficulty with daily activities such as writing, buttoning a shirt and tying shoelaces
- Muscle cramps or twitching
Causes of Neuropathy
Diabetic neuropathy is most commonly caused by high blood sugar levels over time. High sugar levels can damage the nerves in the body, leading to Diabetic Neuropathy. Other causes of Diabetic Neuropathy include:
- Use of certain medications such as chemotherapy drugs and some antibiotics
- Kidney disease or kidney failure
- Autoimmune disorders such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis
- Vitamin deficiencies
Types of Diabetic Neuropathy
There are four main types of diabetic neuropathy: peripheral, autonomic, proximal, and focal.
Peripheral Neuropathy: This is the most common type of diabetic neuropathy and affects the feet and legs first followed by the hands and arms. Symptoms include numbness or reduced sensation in the feet or toes; pain or burning sensations in the feet or toes; muscle weakness in the feet or legs; and changes in foot temperature or color.
Autonomic Neuropathy: This type of diabetic neuropathy affects the organs and systems responsible for automatic body functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, sweating, digestive system, and sexual function. Symptoms include an increase in heart rate; orthostatic hypotension (a sudden drop in blood pressure upon standing); lightheadedness or dizziness upon standing; constipation or diarrhea; nausea or vomiting; difficulty urinating; erectile dysfunction; loss of sweating; blurred vision; trouble swallowing; and tachycardia (an irregular heartbeat).
Proximal Neuropathy: Also known as lumbosacral plexus neuropathy or femoral-acetabular region (diabetes), this type of diabetic neuropathy affects the hips, buttocks, thighs, and occasionally lower back muscles. Symptoms include pain in the hips/buttocks/thighs that gets worse at night; muscle weakness in the hips/buttocks/thighs; and numbness or decreased sensation in these same areas.
Focal Neuropathy: This type of diabetic neuropathy comes on suddenly and usually only affects one specific nerve or a group of nerves at a time (unlike peripheral neuropathy which progresses slowly over time). It can affect any part of the body but most commonly affects the head (usually causing double vision), trunk (usually causing abdominal pain), or leg/foot (usually causing foot drop).
How to Avoid Diabetic Neuropathy?
Fortunately, Diabetic Neuropathy can often be prevented or delayed. Here are some tips to help you avoid Diabetic Neuropathy:
Control Blood Sugar Levels
If you have diabetes, one of the best things you can do to prevent neuropathy is to keep your blood sugar levels under control. high blood sugar (glucose) levels can injure nerves throughout your body. Keeping your blood sugar levels within a target range will help delay or prevent nerve damage.
There are a few ways you can keep your blood sugar levels under control:
- Check your blood sugar levels regularly and take your medication as prescribed by your doctor.
- Eat healthy foods and exercise regularly.
- Avoid sugary drinks, processed foods, and excessive amounts of saturated and trans fats.
If you smoke, quitting is one of the best things you can do for your overall health—including preventing neuropathy. Smoking damages arteries and decreases blood flow throughout the body—including to the limbs. This increased risk is especially true for smokers with type 2 diabetes. Quitting smoking will help improve blood flow and may help prevent or delay diabetic neuropathy.
Keep Your Feet Dry & Clean
If you have diabetes, it’s important to take care of your feet every day—this includes keeping them clean and dry. Washing your feet with soap and water every day—and drying them thoroughly—will help avoid foot problems associated with diabetes, such as infection, athlete’s foot, corns, calluses, bunions, blisters, and Charcot foot (a form of nerve damage). It’s also important to check your feet every day for cuts, sores, redness, blisters, bruises, or swelling—and contact your healthcare provider immediately if you see any of these signs. Wearing socks made from natural fibers like cotton will also help keep your feet dry—and wearing shoes that fit properly will help prevent blisters and other foot injuries.
Wear Diabetic Orthopedic Shoes
If you have Diabetic Neuropathy, it’s important to wear diabetic orthopedic shoes—even if you don’t feel any pain in your feet. Diabetic orthopedic shoes are designed to reduce pressure on the feet and provide additional support for the ankles, arches, and toes. Wearing these shoes will help you avoid ulcers and other Diabetic Neuropathy-related foot injuries.
Regular physical activity is important for managing diabetes—and it can also help prevent Diabetic Neuropathy. Exercise helps improve blood sugar control, reduces stress, and increases circulation to the extremities. Aim to exercise at least 30 minutes most days of the week—and talk to your healthcare provider about the safest and most effective exercises for Diabetic Neuropathy prevention.
Diabetic Neuropathy is a serious condition that can lead to significant complications. Fortunately, Diabetic Neuropathy can often be prevented or delayed with lifestyle changes. Controlling blood sugar levels, quitting smoking, keeping feet clean and dry, wearing diabetic shoes, and exercising regularly are all important steps to take for Diabetic Neuropathy prevention. Talk to your healthcare provider for more information about Diabetic Neuropathy prevention and treatment.
This content is intended for informational purposes only and should not be used as medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, consult your healthcare provider before making any changes to your lifestyle or healthcare plan.