Diabetic neuropathy is a complication that occurs as a result of type 1 and type 2 diabetes that involves nerve damage. It is caused by long-term high blood sugar (glucose) levels and it usually develops slowly over many years. The condition mostly causes damage to the hands, legs and feet. The early symptoms include tingling, numbness, weakness, and pain in the hands or feet. It is usually dangerous when you cannot feel pain and an ulcer develops on the foot.
The King’s Diabetic Neuropathy Clinic is made up of a multidisciplinary team of leading neurologists and endocrinologists who offer comprehensive, world-class high-quality care dealing with patients suffering diabetic neuropathy and other chronic neurological conditions.
Diabetic neuropathy can affect about 50% of people with diabetes. It is a serious diabetes complication and it can be prevented, or its progression slowed down with consistent blood sugar management combined with a healthy lifestyle.
Types and Symptoms of Diabetic Neuropathy
The term neuropathy is used to describe different types of nerve damage. There are four primary types of diabetic neuropathy and an individual can have one or more types. The symptoms tend to develop gradually, and it can be difficult to notice that something is wrong until nerve damage has occurred.
Types of Diabetic Neuropathy include:
This is the most common form of diabetic neuropathy and also goes by the name symmetric peripheral neuropathy. It mostly affects the feet and legs followed by the arms and hands. The symptoms tend to vary and may be worse at night. They include:
- Burning or tingling sensation
- Muscle weakness
- Cramps or sharp pains
- Extreme sensitivity to touch
- Serious foot conditions such as bone and joint pain, infection, or ulcers
The autonomic nervous system controls the heart, eyes, stomach, bladder, intestines, and sex organs. Autonomic neuropathy is the second most common type of neuropathy in individuals with diabetes. It affects the nerves in these areas and can cause:
- Bowel or bladder problems
- Lack of being aware of having low sugar levels
- Decreased sexual response
- Slow emptying of the stomach leads to loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting
- Variations in the way the eyes adjust from light to dark
This is also known as diabetic amyotrophy and mostly affects nerves in the legs, thighs, hips, and buttocks. It can also affect the chest and abdominal areas. It often affects male adults above the age of 50 years and the symptoms are usually on one side of the body but can also spread to the other side. The symptoms include:
- Pain in the thigh, hips, and buttocks
- Stomach pain
- Difficulty in rising from a sitting position
- Weak and shrinking thigh muscles
This is also known as focal neuropathy and occurs when there’s damage to the nerves, leading to weakness in the affected area. It tends to appear suddenly and it’s very painful. It often occurs in the legs, hands, torso, and head. The symptoms include:
- Double vision
- Tingling, numbness, and pain in fingers
- Inability to focus
- Paralysis on one side of the facial area (Bell’s palsy)
- Aching behind one of the eyes
- Weakness in the hands
Diagnosis of Diabetic Neuropathy
Diagnosing diabetic neuropathy involves reviewing the symptoms, medical history, and performing a physical test. Your doctor will check your blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tone, and level of sensitivity to temperature and touch.
Your doctor will also check the sensitivity in your feet and test your ankle reflexes.
Treatment of Diabetic Neuropathy
Although there is no cure for diabetic neuropathy, its progression can be slowed. The treatment of diabetic neuropathy aims to:
- Slow the progression of the condition
- Pain management using medication, alternative therapies, or a combination of both
- Managing complications and restoring functions. This can be done using medication, therapies, or lifestyle changes
If you have diabetes, it is highly recommended that you monitor your blood sugar closely and book an appointment at the King’s Diabetic Neuropathy Clinic for a complete neurological consultation to determine, prevent or delay diabetic neuropathy and its complications.
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