Peripheral neuropathy is a type of nerve damage that can occur in people with diabetes. It is caused by high blood sugar levels over time. Peripheral neuropathy most often affects the nerves in the feet and legs, but it can also affect the nerves in the hands, arms, and torso.
What are main symptoms of diabetic neuropathy?
The main symptoms of diabetic neuropathy are:
- Numbness or tingling in the feet and legs: This is the most common symptom of diabetic neuropathy. It is caused by damage to the nerves that provide sensation to the feet and legs.
- Burning pain in the feet and legs: This type of pain can be mild or severe. It is often worse at night.
- Sharp pains or cramps in the feet and legs: These can be sudden and severe. They are often worse when walking or standing.
- Muscle weakness in the feet and legs: This can make it difficult to walk, climb stairs, or stand for long periods of time.
- Extreme sensitivity to touch: This can make it painful to wear shoes or socks.
- Loss of balance and coordination: This can make falls more likely.
Diabetic neuropathy can also cause problems in other parts of the body, such as the hands, arms, and torso. Symptoms in these areas can include numbness, tingling, pain, weakness, and difficulty coordinating movements.
If you have any of the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy, it is important to see a doctor right away. Early diagnosis and treatment can help to prevent complications.
What causes peripheral neuropathy in diabetes?
Peripheral neuropathy in diabetes is caused by high blood sugar levels over time. High blood sugar levels can damage the nerves in the body, especially the nerves in the feet and legs. This damage can cause numbness, tingling, pain, and weakness in the feet and legs.
There are a number of factors that can contribute to the development of peripheral neuropathy in diabetes, including:
- Duration of diabetes: The longer you have diabetes, the more likely you are to develop peripheral neuropathy.
- Blood sugar control: People with poorly controlled blood sugar levels are more likely to develop peripheral neuropathy.
- Other medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as kidney disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, can increase the risk of peripheral neuropathy.
- Lifestyle factors: Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can also increase the risk of peripheral neuropathy.
Peripheral neuropathy is a serious complication of diabetes, but it is possible to manage the symptoms and prevent complications. If you have diabetes, it is important to see your doctor regularly for checkups and screenings.
What is the best treatment for diabetic neuropathy?
The best treatment for diabetic neuropathy depends on the severity of the symptoms and the underlying cause. However, there are some general treatments that can help to manage the symptoms and prevent complications.
Lifestyle changes are the most important part of treating diabetic neuropathy. These changes include:
- Keeping blood sugar levels under control: This is the best way to prevent and slow the progression of diabetic neuropathy.
- Eating a healthy diet: Eating a healthy diet can help to improve blood sugar control and reduce the risk of complications.
- Exercising regularly: Exercise can help to improve blood sugar control, strengthen muscles, and reduce pain.
- Quitting smoking: Smoking can damage the nerves and make diabetic neuropathy worse.
Medication may be used to treat the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy, such as pain, numbness, and tingling. Some common medications used to treat diabetic neuropathy include:
- Pain relievers: Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, may be used to relieve mild pain. Prescription pain relievers, such as opioids, may be used for more severe pain.
- Anticonvulsants: Anticonvulsants, such as gabapentin and pregabalin, can be used to treat nerve pain and numbness.
- Antidepressants: Antidepressants, such as duloxetine and tricyclic antidepressants, can be used to treat nerve pain and depression.
- Topical creams and patches: Topical creams and patches, such as capsaicin and lidocaine, can be used to relieve nerve pain.
Physical therapy can help to improve range of motion, strengthen muscles, and reduce pain in people with diabetic neuropathy. Physical therapists can also teach people with diabetes how to care for their feet to prevent complications.
Surgery may be an option for people with severe diabetic neuropathy that does not respond to other treatments. Surgery may be used to repair damaged nerves or to relieve pressure on nerves.
If you have diabetic neuropathy, it is important to work with your doctor to develop a treatment plan that is right for you. Your doctor will consider your individual needs and the severity of your symptoms when developing your treatment plan.
Here are some additional tips for managing diabetic neuropathy:
- Wear comfortable shoes and socks.
- Avoid activities that put pressure on your feet, such as walking barefoot or wearing high heels.
- Inspect your feet daily for signs of injury or infection.
- Wash your feet daily with warm water and mild soap.
- Dry your feet thoroughly, especially between the toes.
- Apply lotion to your feet to keep them hydrated.
If you have any questions or concerns about diabetic neuropathy, talk to your doctor.
How do you confirm diabetic neuropathy?
Diabetic neuropathy can be diagnosed based on a medical history, physical exam, and nerve tests.
Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms, how long you have had them, and any other medical conditions you have. They will also ask about your blood sugar control and any other medications you are taking.
During the physical exam, your doctor will check your feet and legs for signs of nerve damage, such as numbness, tingling, weakness, and decreased reflexes. They may also test your balance and coordination.
Nerve tests can help to measure the function of your nerves. Some common nerve tests used to diagnose diabetic neuropathy include:
- Monofilament testing: This test uses a thin, nylon fiber to test your sensitivity to touch.
- Sensory testing: This test uses a variety of tools to test your ability to feel different sensations, such as touch, temperature, and vibration.
- Nerve conduction studies: This test measures how quickly electrical signals travel through your nerves.
- Electromyography (EMG): This test measures the electrical activity in your muscles.
If you have any of the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy and your doctor suspects that you may have the condition, they will likely order one or more of these tests to confirm the diagnosis.
Peripheral neuropathy in diabetes is a serious complication that can lead to a number of problems, including foot ulcers, infections, and amputations. However, there are treatments that can help to manage the symptoms and prevent complications.
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