Nerve Damage Due to Diabetes
Diabetic neuropathy is the term used to describe nerve disorders and nerve damage caused by diabetes. Neuropathy affects the nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 60 to 70 percent of diabetics experience some form of nerve damage, and risks increase the longer you have had diabetes. Nerve damage is usually associated with numbness, tingling, pain and loss of sensation.
Nerve damage due to diabetes may be caused by a combination of factors. High glucose levels, high fat levels and low insulin are some of the metabolic factors contributing to diabetic neuropathy. Neuropathy can also affect the blood vessels, which carry oxygen and nutrients to nearby nerves. Autoimmune factors can cause irritation and inflammation. Other contributing causes include genetics, mechanical injuries and lifestyle choices such as smoking and drinking.
Those who suffer from nerve damage due to diabetes may exhibit no symptoms or combinations of the
• Tingling, pain, numbness or muscle weakness in limbs.
• Indigestion, nausea and vomiting.
• Diarrhea or constipation due to damage in the digestive system.
• Burning and stabbing pain like "pins and needles."
• Dizziness of faintness due to a drop in blood pressure when sitting or standing.
• Urinary problems
• Sexual dysfunction
• Loss of feeling and sensation
Four types of diabetic neuropathies exist. The most common type affects the sensorimotor or peripheral organs such as the hands, feet, arms and toes. Autonomic nerve damage affects the nerves that control the heart and blood vessels, digestion, bladder function, perspiration and sexual function. Proximal neuropathies results in weakness in the thigh, hip, buttocks or legs. Finally, focal neuropathies tend to suddenly strike nerve bundles in the head or torso, resulting in difficulties with vision, pain in the thigh and Bell's palsy.
Treatments attempt to control and reduce blood glucose levels. Meal planning, exercise and oral medications will most likely be the first course of treatment. Doctors may also recommend prescription pain relievers, antidepressants, and anticonvulsants to help relieve symptoms involving pain. Tropical creams such as capsaicin and lidocain patches may also help alleviate tingling in the peripheral organs like the feet.
Most diabetic nerve damage occurs in the feet. A potential loss of feeling in feet may leave sores and infections which go unnoticed and create circulation problems. The CDC reports that roughly 60 percent of all non-traumatic lower limb amputations are due to diabetes. Therefore, diabetics should practice a daily ritual of inspecting feet for sores, infections and other injuries.
Controlling blood sugar levels is critical to delaying or preventing the onset of diabetic neuropathy. Regular testing and screening using glucose meter tests and the bi-annual AIC test are helpful in monitoring blood glucose levels. In addition, experts recommend a healthy metabolic regimen: keep blood pressure under 139/85 mmHg, maintain cholesterol counts at less than 200 mg/dl per day and check for nerve damage daily.