A common problem that many diabetics face due to high blood sugar is nerve damage known as diabetic neuropathy. Nerves aid in telling the difference between hot and cold temperatures, even pain. They extend throughout your body, all the way to the ends. When your nerves don’t function like they should, it causes loss of sensation and even pain in one’s feet, legs or hands. Our nerves are extremely sensitive and damage caused to them can even be life-threatening in some situations.
What does it mean to have neuropathy? Due to consistently high blood sugar levels, nerves get damaged not only in the feet, legs or hands as mentioned earlier but other parts of the body as well.
Damaged nerves mean that the signals that used to travel from the brain to other body parts are now lost. Effectively, a person can no longer feel the heat, cold or pain in their feet, legs, and hands.
This applies also to cuts and sores that might appear on the feet. It is for this reason that diabetics are advised over and over again to pay special attention to their feet every single day before they go to bed.
There are different types of diabetic neuropathy such as peripheral neuropathy, focal neuropathy, autonomic neuropathy and proximal neuropathy.
The signs of peripheral neuropathy are numbness or tingling sensation in the lower legs and feet, painful or burning sensation, loss of sensation in the feet and lower parts of the legs. Symptoms that are less common occur in the arms and hands.
Focal neuropathy complications can occur as pain in the chest, eyes, a change in vision and Bell’s palsy (paralysis on one side of the face).
The symptoms of autonomic neuropathy depend on the organ affected and can appear as nausea/vomiting, upset stomach, constipation, lightheadedness, fainting, erectile dysfunction, loss of control during urination etc.
The final one, proximal neuropathy, appears as pain in the hips, backside or thighs (usually on one side) as well as weakness in the legs.
Unfortunately, there is no way to reverse damage to the nerves although medication can keep the condition under control. The only way to manage it is to keep blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible.
How does one keep the advancement of neuropathy in check?
The simple answer is to keep blood sugar in check. Do consult your doctor about this, since a sharp decline could cause the pain to increase. Some changes that could be prescribed would be to switch to a diet of fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy options and whole grains.
Maintaining a healthy body weight, keeping stress at bay, exercising on a regular basis and taking prescribed medication as per doctor’s advice would be other ways to achieve lower blood sugar levels.
Diabetic neuropathy is a very common but at the same time an extremely troubling complication. Care must be taken at all times to make sure that the feet are paid special attention to. Recognising signs of nerve damage early on is crucial. Diagnostic testing and physical check-ups allow doctors to make a diagnosis. Diabetics should make it a point to check their feet for cuts and sores on a daily basis so that any treatment required can be initiated as soon as possible so as to prevent a bad condition from becoming worse.