Diabetic neuropathy is a serious condition involving nerve damage and pain in patients with diabetes. Uncontrolled blood glucose levels can injure the nerves anywhere in the body, but the feet are the most common place for symptoms to occur. Along with pain, neuropathy in diabetic patients can eventually cause disability or even death. The condition has no cure, but pain can be relieved with medication, and progression can be slowed with blood glucose control.
Signs of this condition appear slowly, and many patients don’t realize that anything is wrong until serious damage has already been done. Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy most often affect the feet. Numbness, pain when walking, muscle weakness, pain at night and ulcers are normal symptoms of the peripheral type. Other forms of neuropathy affecting diabetic patients include autonomic neuropathy, which damages the nerves supplying the major organs, radiculoplexus neuropathy, which damages nerves in the legs rather than the nerve endings in the feet, and mononeuropathy, a term used to describe neuropathy in a single nerve.
It is essential for diabetic patients to check their own feet on a regular basis because peripheral neuropathy can prevent them from noticing injuries, such as cuts, that can lead to serious infection if left untreated. The reduced circulation associated with peripheral neuropathy slows the healing process, which amplifies the risk of major infection that can ultimately require amputation. Any changes in the look or feel of the feet, including tingling, burning, numbness and changes in shape, may be cause for concern. Diabetic patients should in the Atlanta area should visit one of our American Foot and Leg Specialists locations regularly to detect signs of peripheral neuropathy before serious problems occur.
Because high blood glucose levels are the cause behind neuropathy in diabetic patients, the first line of treatment is to lower these levels. Medications, exercise and diet control are used to accomplish this. Depending on symptoms and severity, a primary care doctor may refer patients with peripheral neuropathy to our Atlanta podiatry specialists for treatment. Pain medications, anticonvulsants and topical creams are all commonly used to relieve pain associated with neuropathy.
A combination of meal planning, exercise and weight control is essential to controlling diabetic symptoms. Simple sugars should be avoided or strictly limited. Exercise carries major benefits for diabetic patients even if no weight is lost in the process. Alcohol consumption should be limited, and smoking should be avoided entirely.