Diabetic Neuropathy & How To Treat It

Diabetic neuropathy is a complication that is sometimes caused as a bi product in those who suffer from diabetes.  More specifically diabetic neuropathy is defined as nerve damage that has taken place due to complications from diabetes. In diabetics individuals this nerve damage is most often caused when glucose (blood sugar) levels rise too high for an extended period of time consequently causing the nerve damage.  Diabetic neuropathy progresses in some individuals with diabetes that have been incapable of maintaining normal insulin levels, consequently high sugar levels have caused damage to the nerve cells which then results in a series of painful neuropathy symptoms such as: tingling in the hands and feet, burning in the hands and feet, numbness and muscle weakness developing. Once these painful symptoms begin to become noticeable it is vital that the neuropathy patient seek guidance on how to control the nerve pain and prevent any further nerve cell damage from taking place. There are four categories of diabetic neuropathy; peripheral, autonomic, proximal, as well as focal.

Types of Diabetic Neuropathy

  • Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy – This is the most common type of neuropathy that diabetic patients suffer from, and the areas of the body most affected are the peripheral extremities such as the arms, hands, and more frequently the feet and legs. The symptoms of peripheral neuropathy include numbness, tingling, burning, as well as pain. Usually diabetic neuropathy treatment can be obtained if the symptoms are caught early, when blood sugar levels are kept under control, and when certain preventative measures are taken.
  • Diabetic Autonomic Neuropathy – This type of neuropathy most frequently affects the digestive system, stomach, blood vessels, urinary system, and sexual organs. The treatment for each type of diabetic neuropathy is different, for example if the symptoms affect the digestive system treatments may include eating smaller meals and/or treating with medication. When the symptoms are in regards to the blood vessels the individual should try and avoid standing up to quickly, and also wear special stockings to aid in circulation.
  • Diabetic Proximal Neuropathy – Diabetic proximal neuropathy causes pain on one side either in the thighs, hips, or buttocks. It can also precursor weakness in the legs.  Management for the pain and weakness is usually a necessary for this type of diabetic neuropathy and can include both medication and physical therapy. Depending on the amount of nerve damage that might have previously taken place prevention of proximal neuropathy will consists of keeping blood sugar levels under control.
  • Diabetic Focal Neuropathy – This type of diabetic neuropathy can attack very suddenly and most often will affect the nerves located in the head, torso, or leg causing muscle weakness and pain. The good news when seeking a treatment for this diabetic neuropathy in regards to focal neuropathy is that while painful and unpredictable, this type is more likely to improve itself over weeks or months and doesn’t usually cause long-term damage.

 

Common Treatments

There are several practices of diabetic neuropathy treatments that nerve pain suffers can choose from when trying to find relief from their symptoms. The important thing to remember is that each individual who is searching for neuropathy treatments will suffer from different levels of pain and symptoms; there is not a one size fits all approach to neuropathy treatments, each individual must sort through the options and choose what will work best for them individually. Any individual who might be dealing with nerve pain can utilize the information given in order to more knowledgably discuss diabetic neuropathy treatments with their health care provider, but one should never try and self-diagnose nor self-treat when nerve pain is present.It is important to remember that every individual is different and each person suffering from diabetic neuropathy will need to very clearly communicate with a physician who is attempting to help them with finding a diabetic neuropathic pain treatment. When any individuals is suffering from such severe pain that simple over the counter anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Aleve or Motrin, will not ease the pain, then alternative options must be explored. While prescription medications are often the first line of defense, individuals should be aware that many of them cause side effects, so one should be open to some of the alternative or supplemental treatments that are available as a diabetic neuropathic pain treatment. Some of the most common diabetic neuropathic pain treatments are as follows:

  • Prescription Neuropathy Treatments
    • Antiseizure Medications (Such as Gabapentin or Carbamazepine) an example would be other medications. These can help with the burning sensations that are commonly associated with the nerve pain.
    • Antidepressant Medications (TCA’s or Tricyclic Antidepressants) an example would be certain medications.
    • Topical Ointments (both over the counter and prescription).  Examples of topical a neuropathic pain treatment for nerve pain are the use of numbing cream patches, as well as capsaicin creams or ointments.
    • Local Anesthetics (such as the intravenous application of numbing cream, tocainide or mexiletine).

 

  • Alternative Neuropathy Treatments
    • Therapies (which include physical, massage, or occupational)
    • Acupuncture
    • Nerve Block Injections (i.e. an epidural hormone injection)
    • Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (also called electrotherapy).
    • Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS)

 

  • Supplementary Neuropathy Treatments
    • Vitamin B Supplements
    • Alpha Lipoic Acid
    • Benfotiamine

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