Diabetic Neuropathy is nerve damage caused by diabetes. If the damage affects the arms, hands, legs, or feet, it is known as diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Neuropathy is one of the most common complications of diabetes, occurring in up to 50% of diabetics, despite controlling blood sugar. Once it occurs, it almost always gets worse without treatment. Three different nerve groups can be affected by diabetic neuropathy:
Diabetic peripheral neuropathy develops slowly over time and worsens as the condition progresses. Patients may have the condition for a long time before they are diagnosed with diabetes. Patients who have had diabetes for several years may have an increased likelihood of having diabetic neuropathy.
Diabetic neuropathy typically affects the feet first and then the hands. The first symptoms are usually sensory changes, such as numbness or tingling in the toes. The symptoms may come and go, but eventually they become constant. Over a long period of time, the patient may experience such a loss of sensation that they may not feel how tight their shoes are, know whether the bath water is hot or cold, or whether or not an injury has occurred to their feet.
Patients with the loss of sensory nerves due to diabetic neuropathy are prone to developing skin ulcers and open sores that can become infected and not heal. This is a serious diabetic complication that could lead to the loss of a foot, leg, or life.
The nerve damage of diabetic peripheral neuropathy occurs more commonly in patients with poorly managed diabetes. However, even diabetic patients who have excellent blood sugar control can develop the condition.
For sensory neuropathy:
For motor neuropathy:
For autonomic neuropathy:
There are several important preventive measures in order to minimize the risk of developing diabetic peripheral neuropathy, which include:
New testing and treatment has revolutionized care for diabetic neuropathy. Until now, the primary methods of treatment have included the rigorous control of blood sugar levels, meticulous care of the feet, and use of pain medication.
New testing procedures such as Sensory Testing (QST): Neurosensory and Motor Testing (NMT) will tell the doctor the stage of a person’s neuropathy in order to recommend the appropriate treatment. It also accurately diagnoses conditions with similar symptoms to neuropathy.
If you believe you may be at risk for diabetic neuropathy or are exhibiting symptoms of the condition, please contact North Texas Foot & Ankle at (214)574-9255 to schedule an appointment.