If you’re among the millions of Americans who have diabetes — more than 37 million, to be precise — you need to be on your toes about certain complications. One of the more common is diabetic neuropathy, which affects more than half of people with Type 2 diabetes.
Nerve damage looms large for people with diabetes, which makes having the right medical team in your corner paramount. At Pain Medicine Consultants, we pride ourselves on having such a team — one that has considerable experience helping patients manage diabetic neuropathy.
Here, we discuss the ins and outs of diabetic neuropathy — what it is, how to prevent the nerve damage, and what to do when it takes hold.
How diabetes damages nerves
Neuropathy is another word for nerve damage, and people with diabetes are more susceptible to this problem due to high levels of blood sugar. Over time, this extra glucose in the bloodstream can damage blood vessels, especially those that service your nerves.
Without a good supply of blood, your nerves can malfunction and die off. This nerve damage tends to occur in areas that are farther from your heart, such as in your lower legs or in your hands.
Signs of peripheral neuropathy
Given that we’re talking about nerve damage, the signs of peripheral neuropathy can be varied and include:
The pain can be a dull ache, but it’s more often described as a shock-like burning sensation.
Why we’re so concerned about diabetic peripheral neuropathy
Of course, one of our primary concerns is your comfort, and diabetes-related peripheral neuropathy can be very uncomfortable, if not downright painful.
We’re also concerned about neuropathy because it places you at great risk for ulcers that won't heal, which can lead to limb-threatening infections.
To put some numbers to the problem, of the 200,000 amputations each year in the US, 130,000 are related to diabetes and peripheral neuropathy.
Neuropathy prevention and management
Once diabetic peripheral neuropathy develops, the damage is irreversible, so we want to focus on prevention first.
Far and away, the best way to prevent nerve damage is to work with your medical team to manage your blood sugar levels and make some improvements in your lifestyle, such as eating better and exercising more.
By staying one step ahead of your diabetes, you can avoid serious complications like nerve damage.
If you do develop diabetic peripheral neuropathy, our first goal is to contain the damage as quickly as possible. By managing your blood sugar levels moving forward and adopting healthier lifestyle habits, you can accomplish this.
For our part, we work with you to manage the symptoms of your neuropathy, which might include medications or neuromodulation to disrupt the pain signaling.
We also work with you on monitoring the health of the affected areas, such as performing daily foot checks.
With a little vigilance on your part and key pain management efforts on ours, we help you lead a healthy and active life despite your diabetes diagnosis.
For expert care of your diabetic neuropathy, please contact one of our offices in Pleasanton, Pleasant Hill, or Corte Madera, California, to schedule an appointment.