What is Diabetic Neuropathy?

Diabetic neuropathy is a type of nerve damage than can occur as a complication of diabetes. The areas of your body most commonly affected by diabetic neuropathy are your feet and legs.

Causes and Risk Factors

  • Approximately 50% of people with diabetes will develop nerve damage. Most of the time, symptoms do not appear until 10 to 20 years after diabetes has been diagnosed.
  • Prolonged exposure to high blood sugar (glucose) can damage delicate nerve fibers, causing diabetic neuropathy.
  • Poor blood sugar control, kidney disease and the length of time a person has diabetes can all contribute to nerve damage.
  • Smoking and alcohol abuse can contribute to the development of diabetic neuropathy.

Symptoms

Diabetic neuropathy symptoms can range from pain and numbness in your extremities to problems with your digestive system, urinary tract, blood vessels and heart.

For some people, the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy are mild; for others, the condition can be painful, disabling and even fatal.

Symptoms can develop slowly, over several years, and can vary depending on the nerves that are affected.

Other Symptoms of Diabetic Neuropathy Nerve May Include:

  • Numbness, tingling or pain in the toes, feet, legs, hands, arms and fingers
  • Wasting of the muscles of the feet or hands
  • Indigestion, nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness due to a drop in blood pressure after standing or sitting up
  • Problems with urination
  • Erectile dysfunction in men or vaginal dryness in women
  • Weakness

Diagnosis

  • Diabetic neuropathy is diagnosed based on the patient’s range of symptoms and a physical examination. During the exam, blood pressure, heart rate, muscle strength, reflexes and sensitivity to vibration, temperature, touch and position changes may be tested. Blood tests may also be taken.
  • Nerve conduction studies or electromyography (EMG) can be used to help determine the type and extent of nerve damage.

Treatment Options

At PMIR Medical Center, we understand that pain is a complex condition that affects the whole person—body, mind and spirit. We provide a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach to treatment, customizing the most effective treatment plans for our patients and empowering them to become a collaborative partner in their recovery process.

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