If you have diabetes, you should be serious about your risk of peripheral neuropathy. Why? Because 60-70% of people with diabetes develop this condition. Once nerve damage occurs, you face potential complications, like non-healing foot ulcers, infections, and the possibility of needing an amputation.
The medical team at Infinity Regenerative & Neuropathy Center has extensive experience treating neuropathy with advanced treatments that ease the pain. They also help patients with diabetes prevent progressive nerve damage. Here’s what you need to know about diabetes and neuropathy.
Diabetes is the leading cause of neuropathy
You could end up with damaged nerves (neuropathy) for many reasons. Of all the possible causes, diabetes tops the list.
When diabetes causes neuropathy, it affects the peripheral nerves that carry vital information throughout your body (peripheral neuropathy). Some peripheral nerves transmit messages from your brain to your muscles; others send sensory information to your brain. Peripheral nerves also regulate life-sustaining systems like your heart, lungs, and digestive tract.
Though any of these nerves could suffer damage, diabetic neuropathy most often begins in the small nerves in your feet. Over time, the nerve damage may affect your legs or hands.
At first, you may feel pain, tingling, or burning sensations in your feet. As the nerves suffer more severe damage, they stop carrying pain signals. That’s when numbness sets in. Though the pain and tingling are often severe, numbness isn’t the relief you need. After numbness sets in, you have a much higher risk of developing dangerous diabetic foot ulcers.
The road from diabetes to neuropathy
Your bloodstream always carries a supply of sugar (glucose) because it’s essential for energy, especially for your brain. However, your body tightly controls blood sugar levels.
Your health can suffer if your blood sugar goes below or above the normal range. But there’s a difference between the two extremes.
Low blood sugar quickly causes signs alerting you to the problem. High blood sugar doesn’t send specific warning signs leaving you unaware of the problem.
Diabetes causes high blood sugar. Typically, insulin gets excess sugar out of circulation and returns blood levels to normal. But if you have diabetes, you either have a damaged pancreas that can’t produce insulin (Type 1 diabetes) or your pancreas works; however, your body stops responding to insulin (Type 2 diabetes).
Both types of diabetes cause high blood sugar. And over the years, high blood sugar damages your nerves.
How high blood sugar leads to neuropathy
There are several ways high blood sugar can damage your nerves, including:
Damaged blood vessels
High blood sugar also damages small blood vessels. The vascular damage deprives nerves of the blood supply they need to survive.
The metabolic reaction that occurs when the excess glucose interacts with proteins and fats results in a toxic waste product called advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGEs break down the nerves and disrupt nerve metabolism.
High glucose in nerves
As extra sugar infiltrates nerves, it disrupts the nerve’s ability to send electrical signals and damages the nerve’s structure.
Ways to prevent and manage diabetic neuropathy
The only way you can prevent nerve damage, or stop it from getting worse, is by keeping your blood sugar within the normal range. Diabetes treatment plans typically include the following steps to manage blood sugar:
- Following a balanced diabetic diet
- Limiting your carbohydrate intake
- Getting regular exercise (exercise lowers blood sugar)
- Losing weight, if needed
- Monitoring your blood sugar levels
- Taking insulin or other medications to lower blood sugar
It’s also vital to get treatment for your neuropathy. At our practice, we specialize in the latest and most effective treatments for easing neuropathy symptoms and helping you return to enjoying life without nerve problems.
If you have pain, tingling, or numbness in your feet, call Infinity Regenerative & Neuropathy Center in Plano, Texas, or book an appointment online today.