If you are a diabetes patient and have not been able to control your blood glucose levels, then the blood vessels in the different nerves start getting damaged and do not function efficiently. When the blood vessels of the nerves are adversely affected, the patient stops feeling a kind of numbness and the functioning of the affected nerve areas stop. Similarly, various organs of the body stop functioning such as digestive system, circulatory system, reproductive organs etc.
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How Does Diabetes Lead to Nerve Damage
Diabetes is essentially a metabolic condition and changes in the metabolic structure cause damage in the nerves. Abnormally levels of fat, low levels of the hormone insulin can lead to nerve damage. Besides, if you are someone who has had diabetes for long, you are more susceptible to getting the condition. Finally, there could be some injury caused to the nerves due to several factors.
What is Diabetic Neuropathy?
Diabetic neuropathy is nothing but the various types of nerve disorders caused by diabetes. The nerve damage can be developed in different parts of the body as time passes by.
Amongst the people who suffer from diabetes, around 60 to 70 percent of the patients suffer from one or the other type of diabetic neuropathy. If you are diabetic for over 25 to 30 years, you will be highly susceptible to contracting the condition.
What are the Diabetic Nerve Damage Symptoms?
Most of the times, the diabetic neuropathy patients do not experience any signs or symptoms whatsoever.Besides, the symptoms may be different for different types of nerve damage caused.
However, as the time progresses, a few signs do start surfacing. Some of the signs and symptoms include:
- Irregular bowel movements leading to constipation or diarrhea.
- Urination problems.
- Weakness caused in the body.
- Pain in the toes or other parts of the body like arms, fingers, hands, legs, etc.
- Infection caused in the reproductive organs of the body.
- Continued nausea or vomiting sensation.
- The patient might also experience a reduced blood pressure due to which he or she might faint straight after standing up or sitting.
- A cut or a minor sore which takes a long time to heal is another symptom that might be experienced by the patient.
- Pain in the lower back, in the thighs, chest, and abdomen.
- Blurred vision and an immense difficulty in keeping the focus.
Basis the type of diabetic neuropathy experiences, the signs and symptoms might also vary. These are very slow to appear and might be moderate in the early stages. Hence, it is highly imperative that if you have been diabetic for a few years, you get yourself checked for this condition.
What are the Types of Diabetic Neuropathy?
There are different types of diabetic neuropathy, with each type affecting different parts of the body. The types of diabetic neuropathy include:
- Peripheral Neuropathy
This is the most common type of diabetic neuropathy. This particular type of condition causes immense pain in different body parts such as arms, legs, feet, arms, etc. it is the feet and the legs which get affected first. This is then followed by the arms and hands. Usually, the symptoms become worse at night. It might cause serious and complicated foot problems such as infections, ulcers, bone pain, as well as joint pain.
- Autonomic Neuropathy
This condition mainly affects the heart, sexual organs, intestines, eyes, lungs. Stomach, and the urinary bladder. This type of diabetic neuropathy causes serious damage to all the above organs mentioned and might also result in what is known as hypoglycemia unawareness. This could be a serious condition as the patients do not feel any signs and symptoms that the blood glucose or sugar level is falling down.
- Proximal Neuropathy
This type generally affects the hips, thighs, buttocks, and the legs. It is also known as radiculoplexus neuropathy. The condition is very common amongst old patients particularly if they have type 2 diabetes. Due to the condition, you might experience a situation where it might be difficult for you to get up after having seated for a long time, there might be a loss of weight and weakness caused over a period of time. Treatment normally includes that for weakness as well as pain. The period required for recovery might vary as per the type of nerve which experiences damage.
- Focal Neuropathy
This type of diabetic neuropathy is also known as mononeuropathy. It causes damage to one specific nerve. It usually affects the torso, leg, and even the face of the patient. The good part about this condition is that it does not cause any long-term problems in the patients. The disease causes damage and compression of a specific nerve. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a very common condition caused due to focal neuropathy. This condition might appear all of a sudden and can be really unpredictable.
Treatment for Diabetic Neuropathy
Although there is no specific treatment of the condition, the disease can be treated by adopting the following:
- Slowing the progression of the disease.
- Relieving the pain.
- Managing and effective dealing with diabetic neuropathy
The above three types of diabetic neuropathy treatment are explained in the following paragraphs:
Slowing the Progression of the Disease:
The main aim should be to keep the blood glucose levels under constant control. That can help not only in the delaying of the condition but can also help in the prevention of the same.
As per the MayoClinic, the range of blood sugar that should be followed should be as follows:
- If you are someone who has diabetes and are below 60 years of age, the blood glucose levels should be between 80 and 120 mg/dL, or 4.4 and 6.7 mmol/L.
- If you are anywhere above 60, the blood glucose levels should be between 100 and 140 mg/dL, or 5.6 and 7.8 mmol/L. This also should be the blood glucose level if you have complications related to your kidney, heart or even lungs.
Relieving & Treating the Pain of Diabetic Nerve Damage
There are medications and drugs available which can help in the treatment of the condition by relieving the pain that is experienced. Some of those medications include:
- Antiseizure Drugs: Some of the anti-seizure drugs include pregabalin, tegretol, gralise, etc. when you are taking these medicines, you just need to be careful of the side-effects which might include drowsiness as well as swelling in certain areas.
- Antidepressants: Some medicines and drugs are antidepressant and help in providing instant relief from the pain caused due to nerve damage. The antidepressants include despiramine, imipramine, amitriptyline, amongst a whole lot of other found in the market.
Treatment of the Complications Involved in the Condition:
There are several complications which this condition involves. The treatment for these include:
- Antispasmodic drugs to tackle the problems that appear in the urinary tract of the patients.
- Indigestion, constipation, and diarrhea or any other digestion related problems are usually tackled through diet as well as medicines.
- Low blood pressure is tackled by quitting smoking, drinking, dietary changes.
- Sometimes the doctor also recommends an abdominal binder or compressor to get rid of the problem.
- As seen above, most of the times, the condition leads to problems in the reproductive organs due to which there are problems in the sexual life. In order to tackle the same, some medicines such as sildenafil, tadalafil, etc. are prescribed by the experts.
- There are devices which are inserted in the sexual organs in order to improve and increase the flow of blood in those parts thereby relieving the reproductive organs.
Dietary Changes to Manage Diabetic Nerve Pain
Diet, as we know, play a very important role in the treatment of the condition. Some of the recommended dietary changes include:
- Eat less of carbohydrates and more of fiber as fiber shall help you to feel fuller for a longer time with the result that you will not tend to overeat and put on weight.
- Make it a point to eat lean proteins along with carbohydrates in the meals you have during the day.
- Distributing the food you eat amongst a variety of minerals, calories, and carbohydrates go a great deal in managing gestational diabetes.
- As per the American Diabetes Association, it is important for you to reduce the portion sizes of your meal and eat around 4-5 meals in a day’s time.
- Slow eating is also one of the ways to ensure that no overeating is done and proper weight of the patient is maintained.
- Besides, limit the intake of milk as it contains lactose, which is just simple sugar. However, due to additional health benefits that milk has to offer, you should not curtail the entire consumption of the same.
- It is not advisable to skip any of the meal that you have.
- Simple sugar containing food such as coke, sodas, flavored drinks, fresh juices, etc. should be curtailed as they contain just plain sugar and nothing else.
Precautions that Should be Taken to Prevent Diabetic Neuropathy
Following are a few precautions that should be taken in case you are diabetic and are suffering from this condition:
- Regularly get the blood glucose levels checked.
- Avoid smoking and Alcohol drinking.
- Follow the diet as recommended by the experts.
- Look for blisters, bruises, etc. on your feet and get it fixed as soon as possible.
- Keep the feet dry as well as clean to the greatest possible extent.
- You should cut your nails regularly.
- Shoes that are clean and fit you well are also recommended.
- Take medications and drugs as prescribed.
We hope that the above post has been helpful in educating you more about diabetic neuropathy and how the same can be treated and managed effectively. This post further emphasizes the importance of treating and effectively managing diabetes as the condition involves a lot of complications to the nervous system of the body and as such to several vital organs. It is hence imperative that due care is taken of the patient while he or she suffers from the condition. After having read the article, we hope that necessary precautions will be taken and lifestyle shall be improved to avoid getting the disease and its related complications!!