Neuropathy is a term used to describe a complication of a number of different medical conditions. It involves damage to one or more of the nerve types responsible for sensation, power, movement and bodily functions performed by the gut, bladder and sweat glands. Most cases of neuropathy are found in people with diabetes.
Diabetic neuropathy is the occurrence of neuropathic symptoms in a person with diabetes. If you suffer from type 1 or type 2 diabetes, this condition is something you should be aware of. Diabetic neuropathy can affect your feet, and without proper care this condition can lead to injuries in the feet that may develop into infected sores and foot ulcers. This can affect a person’s quality of life significantly and in severe cases amputation of an affected limb may be necessary.
The high blood sugar levels common in people with diabetes causes damage to blood vessels that supply oxygen and nutrients to the nerves in our feet. This can cause damage to the skin and the subsequent loss of sensation makes the feet more susceptible to damage. The following risk factors have also been shown to contribute to a diabetic person’s likelihood of developing diabetic neuropathy:
Up to 50% of people with diabetic neuropathy have no symptoms at all. Others may experience symptoms that don’t seem serious but develop slowly over months and years. It is very important for people with diabetes to undertake regular medical checks to look for early signs of this condition. Some of the signs of diabetic neuropathy may include one or more of the following:
To establish if diabetic neuropathy may be present, a podiatrist will ask questions about your symptoms and health history. A physical examination is conducted checking the sensation in your feet, the circulation, looking at the skin of the feet thoroughly and checking the tendon reflexes. Based on the results, it may be necessary for you to schedule a doctor’s appointment for more extensive testing.
There is no cure but controlling your diabetes properly and consistently is the best way to treat diabetic neuropathy. It is important to always keep your blood sugar levels within your target range to reduce symptoms.
It is also important to properly care for your feet. Diabetic neuropathy can cause the loss of feeling and sensation in the feet, increasing your chances of getting an unnoticed cut or scratch on your foot that can develop into a sore or ulcer, leading to the chance of serious infection.
Other treatments that may help to manage symptoms include: