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Diabetes and Nerve Damage: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Most patients with diabetes develop routines that help care for their symptoms and keep their blood sugar levels in check. You may be used to keeping a small snack with you at all times, to make sure your blood sugar levels are doing well.

When you travel, you typically bring insulin pens, test strips, and glucose tabs. This is all good and well but what if you also have neuropathy on top of diabetes. It is fairly common which makes understanding neuropathy very important for your path to a better quality of life. Read through this guide to learn more about diabetic neuropathy and what you can do to improve living with this condition.

What is Diabetic Neuropathy? 

Neuropathy in diabetic people occurs when the body is affected by long-term high blood sugar, resulting in painful symptoms such as in the hands and feet. However, neuropathy found in diabetics depends on the type of neuropathy you have, making the entire situation a bit complicated on top of the fact that symptoms can vary from patient to patient. 

Patients may experience symptoms such as: 

> Leg cramps

> Shooting pain in arms and legs

> Numbness

> Loss of sensation in hands and feet 

> Pain in thighs, buttocks, hips, or legs

> Weakness in lower limbs

Types of Diabetic Neuropathy

Autonomic Neuropathy: Nerves in the autonomic nervous system are responsible for controlling involuntary bodily functions. This includes regulating a variety of processes such as respiration, heart rate, digestion, sexual functions, and blood pressure. When these nerves are damaged, it interferes with the communication between these organs and the brain, resulting in dysfunction. 

Focal Neuropathy: Focal neuropathy typically impacts one nerve. It primarily affects the hand, head, torso, or leg, but it is not as frequent as peripheral or autonomic neuropathy. There may or may not be pain, followed by loss of sensation, strength, and overall function, depending on the type. These types of neuropathies are typically due to injury, compression, aging, inflammatory disorders, or other systemic diseases.

Peripheral Neuropathy: Many diabetic neuropathy patients suffer from this type of nerve damage. Peripheral neuropathy impacts the body’s extremities. The risk for this form of neuropathy in diabetics has to do with numbness and loss of sensation in the hands and feet, shooting pains, leg cramps, feet deformities, balance loss, and sensitivities to hot and cold temperatures. 

Proximal Neuropathy: Occurring in both type one and type two diabetic patients, proximal neuropathy is directly related to increased blood sugar levels over time. Patients are affected in their buttocks, hips, legs, and thighs including typical symptoms such as weakness in lower limbs, pain, and difficulty standing without assistance. 

Depending on the nature of your diabetic neuropathy, you may face a specific set of symptoms along with regularly managing diabetes. 

Causes

Most experts are unsure about the exact correlation between diabetes and neuropathy. The most likely cause is that over time if high blood sugar goes unchecked, it interferes with the body’s ability to send signals leading to nerve damage. Other main contributors to diabetic neuropathy have to do with high BMIs and high triglycerides, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking. 

Treatments for Diabetic Neuropathy

1. See a professional. Here at Integrated Pain Management, we focus on quality care for our patients. When we are seeing a new patient we thoroughly perform an exam, prove a diagnosis, and discuss treatment options. Our experts design a program of wellness to fit your individual needs. For diabetic neuropathy, this may mean strictly monitoring and controlling your diabetes, specific medications to help mitigate pain-related symptoms or a therapeutic plan. We put our patients first and are willing to work with you and your lifestyle to provide you with the best treatment plan possible. 

2. Keep your blood sugar at an appropriate level. Your diet has a direct impact on the ups and down of insulin in the body. Keep your diet low in fat, salt, and sugar and high in fiber by eating beans, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Eat smaller meals throughout the day rather than sticking with the traditional 3 larger meals that way you are aiding your sugar levels. Avoid alcohol and smoking, as these are activities that add unnecessary health risks to the body. Test your blood sugar levels daily so you are in the know when it comes to accurately track and regulate your sugar levels. Often is it also recommended to monitor one’s blood pressure levels as well.  Daily exercise is also a key component of managing diabetes. 

3. Maintain Foot Care. Diabetic neuropathy symptoms often impact the legs and the feet, making it difficult to be mobile increases the chances of foot injuries, bruises, and pain. To minimize any symptoms that may develop as a result of not maintaining your feet, create a specific foot care regiment. Stabilizing your legs with a walker or cane helps you avoid falling, jamming your toes, and much more. Apply an ice pack to affected areas for 10 minutes twice daily in the morning and the evening will help soothe and ease any painful symptoms. Take the time to regularly soak your feet in Epsom salt and warm water. The Epsom salts deposit minerals and compounds such as magnesium and sulfate into the water that benefits sore muscles, pain, and skin disorders and decrease inflammation. It is also believed to have anti-fungal and anti-microbial properties. Consider various holistic therapies such as reflexology, tai chi, or reiki to reduce pain as well. 

Contact Integrated Pain Management Today!

Diabetic patients already have a difficult time managing this disease. The added stress of neuropathy can make managing symptoms and following a treatment plan even harder. We are here to help! Taking control of your diabetic neuropathy is the first step to finding relief. Connect with our professionals at Integrated Pain Management by making an appointment today and we will get you on the path to a better quality of life. 

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