Diabetic Neuropathy


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We have already discovered how diabetes can affect different areas of the body. One of the main complications associated with poor blood sugar control is neuropathy. In basic terms this is damage to your nerves, leaving you with a host of symptoms.

Within your body, there are many types of neuropathy that can develop, these are:

  • Autonomic neuropathy – these nerves control your internal environment without you knowing it i.e. your heart rate, digestive system and sexual function
  • Sensory (Somatic) polyneuropathy – these nerves allow you to control you body, i.e. moving your limbs
  • Acute painful neuropathy
  • Diabetic amyotrophy
  • Mononeuropathy – affects one nerve only

The somatic nerves within your body allow you to feel sensation, carrying impulses from your limbs up to your brain. If you suffer from diabetes, there is a 50% risk that you will develop some form of neuropathy over 25 years of having the condition. Even though neuropathy can affect any type of nerve, the greatest problem is damage to the nerves of the legs, which increases your risk of developing foot complications such as ulcers and infection. People report that symptoms begin to occur in the extremities, which then begin to spread back towards the trunk, in a so called stocking and glove distribution. The common symptoms with this type of problem are:

  • Burning sensation
  • Tingling
  • Weakness
  • Numbness
  • Pain on walking
  • Throbbing

Sensory Polyneuropathy

With sensory polyneuropathy, it is likely that you will not begin to notice any symptoms until quite late into the condition, as the nerves that are affected first are in the feet. The first problem you may experience is a feeling of walking on cotton wool. As you lose your sensation, you may not be able to notice blisters developing, which can the develop into ulcers.

Acute Painful Neuropathy

Acute painful neuropathy, is less common than the other problems. Common symptoms include burning and tingling pains that start in the feet and spread up the leg. Some of these symptoms may be worse at night and you may find wearing clothes or having a duvet on you very painful. If you can maintain good blood sugar control you may find these symptoms will eventually cease after 6-12 months. Unfortunately if you have developed chronic neuropathy it is somewhat resistant to treatment and may persist.

Mononeuropathy

Mononeuropathy is a condition that can affect any nerve in the body, usually with a rapid onset. The major nerves affected by this type of neuropathy are in the face and the forearms. This can lead to problems with blinking and moving some of your facial muscles, however these symptoms usually resolve spontaneously.

Amyotrophy

A common condition amongst middle to older aged diabetic males is amyotrophy. This is associated with periods of poor blood glucose control and leads to wasting of the muscles in the legs. Fortunately by controlling your blood glucose well you can avoid developing this problem.

Autonomic Neuropathy

Finally, the last condition is autonomic neuropathy. The autonomic nervous system controls the internal environment of your body, regulating everything from your heart rate and digestive system, to your sexual function. Problems with autonomic nerves can be very damaging, giving symptoms such as fainting, diarrhoea and impotence.


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