What is Diabetic Neuropathy?

Diabetic neuropathy, a common complication of diabetes, is damage to the nerves that allow you to feel sensations such as pain. There are a number of ways that diabetes damages the nerves, but they all seem related to blood sugar being too high for a over a long period of time. Diabetes-related nerve damage can be painful, but it isn’t severe pain in most cases. There are four main types of diabetic neuropathy: peripheral, autonomic, proximal, and focal. However, there are other forms of diabetic neuropathy that are seen that are less common.


Diabetic Proximal Neuropathy

Diabetic proximal neuropathy causes pain in the thighs, hips, or buttocks. It can also lead to weakness in the legs. Treatment for weakness or pain is usually needed and may include medication and physical therapy. The recovery varies, depending on the type of nerve damage. Prevention consists of keeping blood sugar under tight control.


Diabetic Focal Neuropathy

Diabetic focal neuropathy can also appear suddenly and affect specific nerves, most often in the head, torso, or leg, causing muscle weakness or pain. Symptoms of diabetic focal neuropathy may include:

  • double vision
  • eye pain
  • paralysis on one side of the face
  • severe pain in a certain area, such as the lower back or leg(s)
  • chest or abdominal pain that is sometimes mistaken for another condition such as heart attack or appendicitis

Diabetic focal neuropathy is painful and unpredictable, however, it tends to improve by itself over weeks or months and does not tend to cause long-term damage.


Other Nerve Conditions Seen With Diabetes

People with diabetes can also develop other nerve-related conditions, such as nerve compressions (entrapment syndromes). Carpal tunnel syndrome is a very common type of entrapment syndrome and causes numbness and tingling of the hand and sometimes muscle weakness or pain.


Prevention of Diabetic Neuropathy

Keeping tight control of your blood sugar levels will help prevent many of these diabetes-related nerve conditions. Implementing things such as a well-balanced diet, exercise, and physical therapy are just a few of the things that patients can do to help manage, and hopefully even reverse, the symptoms. It is very important to talk to your doctor about optimizing your individual treatment plan.

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