Diabetes has been labeled, among other things, as one of the world’s largest health care problems of this century. In the United States alone, diabetes affects 10% of the population and is increasing by a whopping 5% each year. Of the many health consequences that stem from diabetes, diabetic neuropathy ranks among the most common, affecting 50% of the diabetic population.
At Pain Medicine Consultants, our team of top-notch pain management specialists understands the devastating impact that diabetic neuropathy can have on your quality of life. As health care providers who specialize in managing pain such as this, we offer a number of effective solutions, as well as recommendations for steps you can take to better manage your diabetic neuropathy.
Here’s a look at how, with our help, you can keep diabetic neuropathy from taking over your life.
Diabetic neuropathy basics
In its most simple definition, neuropathy refers to nerve damage, which is a complication that often comes with diabetes. There are four different types of diabetic neuropathy, including:
- Peripheral neuropathy, usually in your legs and feet
- Autonomic neuropathy, which affects your organs
- Focal neuropathy, or damage to a single nerve
- Proximal neuropathy, which affects your hips, buttocks, or thighs
Far and away the most common type of diabetic neuropathy is peripheral neuropathy. This form of nerve damage affects the peripheral nerves in your legs and feet and, less commonly, in your arms and hands. The hallmark of peripheral neuropathy is pain and/or tingling in your extremities, which typically comes on gradually.
Over time, this nerve damage can cause cascading problems as you lose sensation in your lower extremities and ulcers develop, which are slow to heal. Even without this development, peripheral neuropathy can cause moderate to severe discomfort as you try to move about.
The primary driver behind the nerve damage in all cases of diabetic neuropathy is the uncontrolled glucose level in your blood. Higher-than-normal sugar levels directly damage your nerves as well as the blood vessels that supply your nerves with oxygen and nutrients.
Dealing with early neuropathy
If you suspect that you may be developing neuropathy, the most important step you can take is to seek medical attention at the earliest signs. Untreated neuropathy can lead to irreversible damage, so the earlier you seek treatment, the better your outcome will likely be.
If we diagnose neuropathy, our goal is to work with your medical team to better regulate your blood glucose to prevent further damage. We may also suggest some lifestyle changes, such as losing weight and adding more physical activity to your daily regimen to keep your blood flowing properly and your nerves healthy. And kicking certain habits, like smoking, can go a long toward offsetting neuropathic damage.
We also recommend that you check your feet and legs daily for any issues. As we mentioned above, any wound to your foot has the potential to cause very serious problems since such wounds are slow to heal.
You’d also do well to seek the help of a podiatrist, who can outfit you with orthotics to lessen the potential of nerve damage in your feet, as well as enable easier movement if you already have peripheral neuropathy.
When neuropathy takes hold
If your neuropathy advances, causing you great discomfort, our goal is to help you better manage the pain and other side effects. Once we perform a thorough assessment of the damage using nerve conduction studies, filament tests, and other diagnostic tools, we come up with a treatment plan that helps you regain pain-free movement.
There’s no cure for most diabetic neuropathies, so our goal is to help you manage the condition and slow its progression. To help with your comfort, we offer targeted pain management therapies, such as:
- Pain medications
- Spinal cord stimulators
- Physical therapy
- Nerve blocks
- Joint injections
The treatment that’s best for you depends upon your unique situation. Rest assured, we work exhaustively to find the right combination of therapies so that you can get back to a happy, pain-free life.
To learn more about dealing with diabetic neuropathy, please contact one of our offices.