Diabetes is a disease that can be very painful both physically and psychologically. The physical pain is often due to a condition called diabetic neuropathy. It is one of the most common complications of diabetes. It is very common condition in diabetes as it affects more than 50% of people with diabetes. Diabetic neuropathy can range from being mild to being quiet debilitating at times. If you have this condition you are most probably wondering if diabetic neuropathy can be cured.
Diabetic Neuropathy Defined
Diabetic neuropathy is nerve damage caused by diabetes. It can be a result of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. It is a type of nerve damage caused by long term high blood sugar levels. Even though it is one of the most common complications of diabetes, it is considered to be a serious condition as it can be associated with amputations, kidney dysfunction, debilitation pain and many other serious conditions. However, it commonly affects the legs causing problems of sensation, numbness and pain. Symptoms largely depend on the type of diabetic neuropathy you have.
This condition develops slowly and progress over time. It is therefore crucial to be able to notice the early symptoms of this condition before it progresses to a more serious case. Visit your doctor promptly if you are diabetic and experience any symptoms of neuropathy no matter how mild they may seem.
What Causes Neuropathy In Diabetes
Overtime, sustained levels of high blood sugar levels can damage your nerves directly. High blood sugar levels can also damage blood vessels that supply your nerves. This affects your nerves indirectly and can lead to neuropathy. The blood vessels can also be affected by the high cholesterol levels in the body. Other factors that can cause or aggravate the development of neuropathy in a person living with diabetes are smoking, alcohol use and low levels of vitamin b12. Some diabetes medications may cause drops in levels of vitamin 12 in the blood. This will indirectly aggravate diabetic neuropathy.
How Do you Know If You Have Diabetic Neuropathy
Your symptoms will depend on which type of diabetic neuropathy you have. The type of neuropathy is dependent of which nerves have been affected. Because the neuropathy develops overtime, symptoms may defer. When mild symptoms are unattended to they will progress to severe symptoms.
It is the most common form of neuropathy. It usually affects the feet and legs, and can progress to the arms and hands. Common symptoms include burning sensation, tingling sensation, numbness, pain or reduced feeling of pain, and loss of sensation to change in temperatures. This form of neuropathy can also present with loss of balance, muscle weakness, and loss of reflexes. These symptoms often worsen at night.
Because of the loss of sensation to the feet, people with neuropathy often do not feel when they are injured. They are therefore prone to injuries on the feet. Because of the poor blood circulation associated with diabetes, this form of neuropathy often presents with wounds that are difficult to heal. Sometimes you may not even feel that your shoes are too tight and they end up giving you ulcers and infections. This is a very serious foot complication that may lead to amputation.
This form of neuropathy is the second most common after peripheral neuropathy. For you to understand this form of neuropathy, you have to understand the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system work automatically and unconsciously. It regulates functions in the body such as your digestion, your heart beat, sweat glands, bladder etc.
Autonomic neuropathy present with symptoms involving the cardiovascular system (dizzy spells, fast heart rate, and you may not get typical symptoms when having a heart attack), digestive system (diarrhea, constipation, difficulty in swallowing, delay in digestion, and you may not feel symptoms of hypoglycemia), and the bladder (incontinence or difficulty emptying the bladder fully). You may also have problems affecting your sex organs such as vaginal dryness or erectile dysfunction.
Mono-neuropathy may also be referred to as focal neuropathy. It is not very common. This form of neuropathy affects a single nerve or a specific group of nerves. It then results in muscle weakness of the affected area. It typically comes on suddenly and lasts for weeks or months. Symptoms include paralysis on one side of the face (Bell’s palsy), double vision, pain on one eye, or isolated pain on the foot, back, thigh or pelvis.
Proximal neuropathy is a form of neuropathy that is commonly seen in type-2 diabetes adult men. It however does not mean that if you are a woman you can not get this form of neuropathy. It typically affects the hips, thighs and buttocks. The signs are often on one side of the body and will typically become worse before you experience some relief. Symptoms include sudden severe pain in the affected area associated with muscle weakness, making it difficult to stand without being assisted.
Depression: Because of the chronic pain, people suffered from diabetic neuropathy are often depressed. It is a frustrating condition to live with.
Anxiety: Anxiety in diabetic neuropathy is directly associated with the amount of pain you may be experiencing.
Insomnia: Because of the symptoms that worsen at night, the symptoms may keep you awake causing insomnia.
Can Diabetic Neuropathy Be Cured
No. Diabetic neuropathy cannot be cured. This is because the body can not naturally repair the nerves that have already been damaged by the disease. The good news is diabetic neuropathy can be managed well. You can also slow the progression of the symptoms.
It is important to note that your first step is to control your blood sugar as this is the cause of the neuropathy in the first place. Diabetic neuropathy can be caused or made worse by other conditions such as lack of certain vitamins or thyroid problems. Your doctor will therefore rule out all these other conditions before starting you on any medication.
There are medications used to relieve symptoms of neuropathy. Talk to your doctor who will prescribe the best medication for you. Several medications have been proven to relieve symptoms. Vitamin B supplements often improve the numbness and tingling sensation associated with nerve damage.
Some pain relieving creams are also available to relieve your neuropathy. However, always talk to you doctor before using any creams or patches for neuropathy.
Other modes of treatment include physical therapy and acupuncture. The mode of treatment that your doctor suggest largely depends on the type of symptoms you are experiencing.
Can One Prevent Neuropathy in Diabetes
For you to prevent diabetic neuropathy, you have to have a full understanding of the risk factors associated with your likelihood of getting neuropathy. These are:
- Uncontrolled blood sugar
- High cholesterol levels
- Being overweight
- High blood pressure
Therefore good control of sugar is your first step to reduce the likely-hood of getting diabetic neuropathy. To prevent the onset or progression of neuropathy, endure the following:
- monitor you blood sugar regularly
- watch your diet ( follow you diet plan)
- be physically active
- take your medication properly as prescribed by your doctor
- quit smoking
- limit your alcohol intake
To avoid complications associated with diabetic neuropathy do the following
- Talk to your doctor promptly if you think you are developing symptoms of diabetic neuropathy
- Have you feet checked by your doctor regularly at least once a year
- Check the bottom of your feet daily to look for injuries and protect them from injury
- Wear durable shoes all the time even when you are in your house
- Proper foot care is the single most important factor in diabetic neuropathy
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