What is Diabetic Neuropathy?
Peripheral neuropathy is a general term used to describe conditions, such as diabetic neuropathy, that affect the nervous system out with the brain and spinal cord. There are many causes of neuropathy ranging from trauma and infections to chemo induced, auto immune diseases and diabetes.
Diabetic Neuropathy is a common complication associated with diabetes, which can cause different symptoms in different parts of the body. Diabetes causes damage to the blood vessels which supply the nerves with oxygen. When the nerves are starved of oxygen they start to miscommunication with the brain and body and can often misfire, sending incorrect messages which results in loss of sensations and pain. It’s estimated that almost 1 in 10 people aged 55 or over are suffering from peripheral neuropathy to some extent.
What are the symptoms of Diabetic Neuropathy?
Diabetic Neuropathy in the feet has main symptoms such as:
- Loss of sensation, numbness or tingling in the feet
- Burning, stabbing or shooting pain in the feet
- Muscle weakness
- Wasting away of muscles in feet or hands
- Indigestion, nausea and vomiting
- Urinary problems
- Dizziness / blurred vision
- Weakness of the limbs
Although these symptoms are usually constant, they may come and go
While the exact effect of glucose on the nervous system is unknown, it is recommended that you keep track of your glucose levels and try not to make them spike. Prolonged exposure to higher than normal glucose levels will damage the blood vessels causing nerve damage. High levels of triglycerides, a key blood fat which is measured during a cholesterol check, are also associated with the development of nerve damage.
How do I stop Diabetic Neuropathy from developing?
To prevent neuropathy from developing, having a good understanding of this condition and how it affects your body will help keep you motivated and give you an awareness of what is happening, and why, inside your body. You should be in regular contact with your diabetic nurse / GP/ consultant to check your medication / activity is working efficiently and that your blood sugars are well controlled. Visiting a podiatrist / diabetic nurse for neuropathy screening at least once per annum. Various checks such as vascular assessments and sensation tests will be carried out in addition to observations being made and noted.
What treatments are there for Diabetic Neuropathy?
Depending on the symptoms and underlying causes, treatments for diabetic neuropathy vary. If diabetes is the sole cause of the neuropathy, then it may help to better control your blood sugar levels, or even stop smoking and cut down on alcohol in additional to following proper medical advice.
Symptoms such as nerve pain and other soreness may be treated with prescribed medications called neuropathic pain agents, as standard over-the-counter painkillers are often ineffective.
Muscle weakness can often be treated effectively through exercise, which can improve circulation, strengthen the muscle and lose weight. Physiotherapy or walking aids can be further methods to help fix this issue.
How can A Step Ahead Podiatry help?
Neurovascular assessments and advice. Adopting good foot care habits from initial diagnosis could be lifesaving in the future if neuropathy develops. Checking your feet daily when putting on socks, using emollients to keep skin healthy and subtle is a good starting point. Checking shoes to make sure nothing is hiding inside, especially if you have children in the house or animals who love hiding things.
If any aches and pains develop, we can look at what might be causing these and provide suitable insoles to help correct the issues. Also, we can ensure that there are no structural issues causing pain.
Prevention is key with diabetes and that way, if an issue does evolve, it can be dealt with immediately reducing the long-term effects. If you think that you may need help with this, please get in touch or book an appointment if you’re feeling comfortable.