Neuropathy refers to disorders of the nerves. There are many causes of neuropathy, one of which is diabetes. Prolonged high blood sugars can put you at higher risk for developing neuropathy. Having diabetes for many years also can increase your risk. It’s important to keep your blood glucose levels as near normal as possible to help prevent neuropathy. There are two kinds of neuropathy that usually affect people with diabetes: Autonomic neuropathy, which usually involves the digestive tract, urinary tract, heart, and reproductive organs.
Symptoms to look out for include:
- Feeling full after eating a small amount
- Decreased appetite
- Blood pressure changes
- Urinary incontinence
- Heat intolerance
- Male impotence
Peripheral neuropathy, which affects the extremities, such as hands, legs and feet.
Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy
- Loss of muscle control
People who already have diabetic neuropathy should have their doctors inspect their feet regularly.
Medications for Neuropathic Pain
Peripheral neuropathy is a long-term complication of diabetes, both type 1 and type 2. It’s caused by prolonged exposure to excessive blood glucose levels and affects the nerves of the extremities, most commonly the feet and lower legs. The longer a person has diabetes, the greater the risk of painful neuropathy. Symptoms of neuropathy include numbness, tingling or prickly feelings, usually in the feet. As it advances, intense burning pain can become an issue. What do doctors prescribe for pain and how do these medicines work? And more importantly, are they successful at treating neuropathic pain?
Acetaminophen or NSAIDs
- Acetaminophen or other over-the-counter anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen or naproxen may be recommended. These are called NSAIDs, or non-hormoneal anti-inflammatory drugs. They may work against the pain, but some NSAIDs carry the risk of decreased kidney function in people with diabetes if taken for an extended amount of time.
Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs)
- TCAs can be effective at treating neuropathic pain. Although they are classified as antidepressants, their pain relieving properties can typically be felt at much lower doses than what is prescribed to a person with depression.
Common TCAs prescribed for neuropathy include: Imipramine (Tofranil), amitriptyline (Elavil), and nortriptyline (Pamelor, Aventyl). Elavil is currently the most commonly prescribed antidepressant medication prescribed for peripheral neuropathy.
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