The high blood sugar level caused by diabetes could lead to the development of nerve and blood vessel damage, also known as diabetic neuropathy. It usually appears as a complication of type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
This condition could affect different nerves in the body, including sensory nerves and those that impact movement. Feet and legs are the limbs most often impacted by diabetic neuropathy, affecting their mobility range, skin sensitivity, and coordination.
Diabetic neuropathy could harm other parts of the body and lead to digestive issues, muscle weakness, and changes in blood pressure. If you have diabetes and notice changes in the sensitivity or mobility range of your feet and legs, we suggest seeking professional care as soon as possible to prevent complications from arising.
Although elevated blood sugar levels usually cause diabetic neuropathy, other factors may contribute to its development. These include:
- Hyperglycemia: Elevated glucose in the blood vessels could lead to reduced oxygenation in the circulatory system and nerve damage.
- Inflammation: Inflammation in the arteries could lead to nerve disruption.
- Metabolism: Abnormalities in the metabolic system can contribute to nerve and blood vessel damage.
- Genetics: A medical history of nerve and blood vessel issues can lead to the development of diabetic neuropathy
- Lifestyle: Having poor dietary habits and not exercising could lead to diabetes.
Visiting your doctor for evaluation is recommended if you identify any of the following symptoms of diabetic neuropathy:
- Numbness or tingling in the hands, legs, and feet
- Loss of skin sensitivity and reduced ability to perceive heat or cold
- Constant pain in the limbs
- Muscle weakness
- Coordination issues
- Digestive issues like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
If you have a family history of diabetes or have symptoms of diabetic neuropathy, it is ideal to seek a professional diagnosis. During diagnosis, your doctor may perform the following actions:
- Evaluate the medical history of your family to discard any potential hereditary factors that could contribute to the development of diabetic neuropathy.
- Carry out a physical examination of your legs, arms, and feet to test your sensitivity, muscle strength, and mobility range.
- Order blood tests to assess your glucose levels.
- Request an electromyography to measure the electrical activity of muscles and nerve cells.
Treatment for diabetic neuropathy often focuses on reducing blood glucose levels and pain in the feet, legs, and arms. These may range from the following options:
Compared to regular medication
, non-opioids help manage pain while reducing the risk of side effects and addiction. Some of the best non-narcotic medication options to treat diabetic neuropathy include antidepressants and anticonvulsants to treat localized pain.
When suffering from diabetic neuropathy, the nerves providing mobility and sensitivity may become damaged. Neuromodulation aims to restore nerve functionality.
For example, Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) involves using low-level electrical impulses to help reduce pain and increase blood flow in the limbs.
Diabetic neuropathy can be successfully managed with the treatment options listed above and also by implementing multiple lifestyle changes and conservative approaches like:
- Having proper foot care, like wearing comfortable shoes and good hygiene to avoid injuries and infections
- Having a low-sugar diet
- Performing exercises that focus on arms, legs, and feet regularly
- Taking vitamin supplements
- Avoiding heavy drinking and smoking