Diabetic neuropathy is a kind of nerve damage you may experience if you suffer from diabetes. High glucose (blood sugar) levels can damage nerves throughout your body, but most often those in the legs and feet. Symptoms can range from numbness and pain to digestive system and heart issues.

While some people only have mild symptoms, others suffer from painful, disabling effects. This is a serious diabetes complication that impacts about half the people who have diabetes. About 37 million people in this country have diabetes, or one in 10, according to the CDC.

Luckily, there are non-invasive treatments that can help you live your life again without numbness or pain.

Causes of Diabetic Neuropathy

While the exact cause is unknown, there are a few factors that could contribute to diabetic neuropathy, such as:

  • High blood sugar: This causes chemical changes in nerves, impairing their ability to transmit signals. High glucose levels can also damage blood vessels responsible for carrying oxygen and nutrients to all the nerves in your body.
  • Metabolic factors: High triglyceride and cholesterol levels can elevate the risk of neuropathy. Those who are overweight or obese are also more likely to develop neuropathy.
  • Heredity: Certain genetic traits may make some people more vulnerable to nerve disease.

Symptoms of Diabetic Neuropathy

There are four types of diabetic neuropathy, and you may have one or more of them at once. Your symptoms will vary with what type you have and which nerves are impacted. Many people don’t know that they have diabetic neuropathy until it is in its advanced stages.

1.      Peripheral neuropathy

Also known as distal symmetric peripheral neuropathy, this is the most common type. It first affects the feet and legs, then the hands and arms. Symptoms tend to be worse at night and can include:

  • Numbness
  • Reduced ability to feel pain or changes in temperature
  • Tingling or burning sensations
  • Sharp cramps or pains
  • Increased sensitivity to touch
  • Foot problems such as infections, ulcers, and bone and joint pain

2.      Autonomic neuropathy

This system is responsible for controlling the heart, bladder, intestines, stomach, sex organs and eyes. Diabetes often affects the nerves present in these systems, leading to:

  • Lack of awareness of low blood sugar levels
  • Bladder or bowel issues
  • Slow stomach-emptying, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite
  • Changes in eye adjustment from light to dark
  • Decrease in sexual response

3.      Proximal neuropathy

This type only affects nerves in the hips, thighs, buttocks and legs, and maybe even the abdominal and chest area. Symptoms typically appear on one side of the body, possibly spreading to the other side. This may result in:

  • Severe hip, thigh or buttock pain
  • Weak or shrinking muscles in the thigh
  • Difficulty getting up from a seated position
  • Severe stomach pain

4.      Mononeuropathy

Cranial and peripheral are the two types of mononeuropathy, a term that refers to the damage a specific nerve sustains. Mononeuropathy can result in:

  • Difficulty focusing
  • Double vision
  • Aching behind one eye
  • Bell’s palsy (paralysis on one side of the face)
  • Numbness or tingling in the hand or fingers except the pinkie
  • Weakness in hands

You should see a doctor when you:

  • Have a cut or sore on your foot that becomes infected or doesn’t heal properly
  • Have burning, tingling, weakness or pain in the feet or hands that interferes with sleep or daily activities
  • Digestion, urination or sexual function changes
  • Dizziness or fainting

Diagnosis of Diabetic Neuropathy

Early diagnosis is the best way to start more effective and successful treatment. Your doctor will diagnose you based on an examination, medical history and lab tests. They may also check your reflex and muscle strength, as well as muscle sensitivity. They may also order additional tests, ultrasounds, skin biopsies, and nerve conduction studies.

Contact Summit Spine and Joint Centers

We would be happy to discuss treatments for diabetic neuropathy that can help you live without pain. Just contact us for a consultation at 770-962-3642.