Of the many complications that can develop due to diabetes, peripheral neuropathy is among the most common, affecting 50% of those who have diabetes in the United States. Not only can this condition lead to ongoing pain and discomfort, it can also threaten your mobility.
Our team here at Pain Medicine Consultants specializes in diabetic neuropathy. We have considerable experience helping patients to better manage this type of nerve damage.
Here, we take a closer look at how diabetes can lead to neuropathy and what we can do to bring you relief.
When you have diabetes, you have higher-than-normal levels of glucose in your blood due to a lack of insulin or insulin resistance.
Over time, these high levels of sugar in your blood can damage your nerves, preventing them from functioning normally. This excess glucose can also weaken your capillaries, which are the tiny blood vessels that deliver oxygen and nutrients to your peripheral nerves.
Called diabetic neuropathy, this nerve damage can occur most anywhere in your nervous system and affect not only your sensory nerves, but also your autonomic nerve function, which controls those unconscious actions, such as your heart rate, your digestive system, and your urinary tract.
For the purposes of this discussion, we’re going to focus on peripheral neuropathy, which typically develops in the sensory nerves in your lower limbs.
The reason this nerve damage most often occurs in your lower legs is that the blood vessels and nerves in these areas are farthest from your heart. That said, some people develop symptoms in their arms and hands.
As the high sugar content in your blood damages your peripheral nerves, you may experience:
As a result of peripheral neuropathy in your lower limbs, you may have problems with balance.
Outside of the discomfort, one of our primary concerns is the numbness that comes with peripheral neuropathy. If you’re unable to recognize when your feet have been injured and you have an open wound or ulcer, infection can pose a real threat.
The most important step you can take if you develop peripheral neuropathy is to redouble your efforts to control your glucose levels. Some nerve damage is irreversible, but by controlling your diabetes, you can halt the nerve damage before serious complications develop.
For our part, we can help control the uncomfortable symptoms of peripheral neuropathy. We offer many pain management treatments, but one we’re very enthusiastic about is called spinal cord stimulation.
Also called neuromodulation, this treatment sends mild electrical impulses into your nervous system to disrupt the pain messaging. One study found that spinal cord stimulation, “may be considered as an effective, safe, well-tolerated, and reversible treatment option for severe drug-refractory neuropathic pain.”
If you would like more information about how to control diabetic neuropathy and your treatment options, please contact one of our Marin County offices in Pleasanton, Pleasant Hill, or Corte Madera, California.