DIABETIC NEUROPATHY

WHAT IS DIABETIC NEUROPATHY?

Actually there are many kinds of neuropathies which are a group of nerve disorders all caused by diabetes mellitus. The damage to the nerves begins to develop when the blood sugar levels get high and the blood flow decreases. This is all brought about by uncontrolled blood sugar levels. Neuropathies do not happen overnight, and most symptoms show up anywhere from 10 to 20 years after being diagnosed with diabetes. Up to 70% of people with diabetes will develop a neuropathy of one kind or another. The longer you have diabetes, being overweight, high blood pressure and the increased amount of fat in your blood all poses a higher risk of acquiring a form of neuropathy.

Neuropathies affect the nerves of the entire body. Most of them settle in certain areas such as the intestines, feet or hands but truly all organs and bodily systems can be affected as well.

SIGNS OR SYMPTOMS OF NEUROPATHY

What kind of neuropathy you may have depends on which nerves are affected. Symptoms generally become visible only after many years of having diabetes have passed. For some people with nerve damage there isn’t any pain at all.

The first symptom of neuropathy is a tingling or numbness in the feet. Nerve damage in the feet could be serious because you would have the inability to feel things, like when you step on something sharp, get a blister or simply touch something hot or cold.

Other symptoms may include erectile dysfunction, bladder incontinence, diarrhea, muscle weakness, droopiness of the face and eyelids, dizziness and difficulty speaking or swallowing.

Granted, the symptoms listed here are just a fraction of them and each one pertains to a certain variety of neuropathy. With a physical examination a few indicators of neuropathy may include loss of feeling in the feet, loss of reflexes in the ankle, changes in the skin and a sudden drop in blood pressure when standing up suddenly. There are also tests to record the electrical activity in the muscles and the speed in which these signals travel down the nerves.

NEUROPATHY VARIETIES

There are four classifications of diabetic neuropathy. The first and by far the most commonly noticed one is called peripheral or sensorimotor neuropathy. This variety affects the feeling in the toes, feet, legs, arms and hands. The pain can feel like pins and needles or a pricking sensation and sometimes burning, dull or just achy. At times patients can’t feel where their legs are. Depending of the severity of the neuropathy, ulcers and cuts, which can’t be felt, develop into sores and often result in amputation. Loss of motor functions in the hands and legs are also caused by nerve damage.

Another type is known as autonomic neuropathy. The autonomic nervous system controls the functions of the gastrointestinal tract, genitourinary organs, sweat glands and blood vessels, and the organs of the heart and lungs. People suffering with this neuropathy experience bloating, nausea, diarrhea as well as having trouble digesting food. Problems such as urinary frequency, incontinence and urinary tract infections, due to retention, are fairly common. Sexual response and perspiration are also affected as well as the nerves of the eyes, lungs and the nerves that serve to control the heart and blood pressure. Also, the warning system that tells people they have low blood sugar levels, no longer works, thus making hypoglycemia present but not recognized by the patient.

The third kind is called proximal neuropathy. Other names of this variety are lumbosacral plexus neuropathy, femoral neuropathy or diabetic amyotrophic neuropathy. This kind is more common in people with type 2 diabetes. It is characterized by pain in the hips, buttocks, thighs and legs on one side of the body. Many people suffer weakness in the legs and have the inability to get up and stand without help.

Occurring suddenly and mostly in older adults with diabetes, focal neuropathy affects particular nerves in the torso, leg or head. Symptoms of this neuropathy include eye pain, inability to focus and other vision problems, facial paralysis called Bell’s palsy, pain in the chest, side, lower back and abdomen. Focal neuropathy is highly unpredictable and will not cause long term damage. Surprisingly, it can also improve itself over a period of time.

People with diabetes often suffer entrapment syndromes which is a type of nerve compression. The most common form of this kind of syndrome is carpal tunnel.

PROGNOSIS

Diabetes is the number one cause of neuropathy, which is the leading complication of this disease. Neuropathy is responsible for amputations and even death in severe cases. Studies and research of this condition also show that it’s progressive in nature. The best way to stall the onset of neuropathy is to monitor the degree of glycemic control of both types of diabetes.

 

 

 

 

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