Diabetes can harm nerves all over your body. Diabetic neuropathy is, in fact, the most prevalent long-term consequence of diabetes.
Since it is a painful condition, it can also set the stage for health-related issues, which may be life-threatening in some cases. Although it isn’t fully treatable, sensible lifestyle changes can help some individuals avoid it or limit its development. But before we can jump into the treatment options, let’s look at the various types of diabetic neuropathy.
Types of diabetic neuropathy
There are various kinds of diabetic neuropathy. It is because our bodies contain many types of nerves that perform complicated actions. The symptoms and treatments you receive have a type-to-type basis.
Diabetes causes peripheral neuropathy, which is the most frequent kind of neuropathy. Nerves going to your extremities—your feet, legs, hands, and arms—are affected. The nerves that go down your legs travel into your feet after branching off the spinal cord in the lumbar region (low back).
Because the nerves running to your feet are so lengthy, they’re the ones that get injured the most. This nerve damage can lead to foot complications like deformities, infections, ulcers, and amputations, all frequent among people with diabetes.
Diabetic amyotrophy is another name for proximal neuropathy. Because myo means muscle in Greek, this is a kind of neuropathy that can cause muscular weakness. It affects the muscles in your upper leg(s), buttocks, and hips in particular.
Nerve pain, particularly pain that radiates from the low back and down the leg, might be a symptom of proximal neuropathy. Radiculopathy is the professional medical word for this, although most people refer to it as sciatica. This type of neuropathy is also known as polyradiculopathy-diabetic amyotrophy if there is any shooting nerve pain involved.
When it comes to prevalence, proximal neuropathy is second only to peripheral diabetic neuropathy. It mainly affects senior individuals with diabetes, and unlike peripheral neuropathy, it usually goes away with time or therapy.
Autonomic nerves are responsible for keeping your body operating smoothly. Many activities in your body transpire without your knowledge: the heart keeps on beating, you breathe, and the stomach digests food. The autonomic nervous system is in charge of these actions.
Your body’s homeostasis has maintenance through this nervous system. If the consequences of diabetes affect your autonomic nerves (autonomic diabetic neuropathy), the body may have difficulties maintaining homeostasis.
Autonomic neuropathy can be distressing because it can affect so many different aspects of your body, from the digestive system to eyesight. However, keep in mind that your symptoms will vary depending on which nerves in the autonomic nervous system suffer damage.
Polyneuropathy encompasses all the three above types of diabetic neuropathy: peripheral, autonomic, and proximal. The term “poly” refers to the fact that they impact a large number of nerves. Focal neuropathy, on the other hand, affects only one nerve; it’s called focused neuropathy. Mononeuropathy is another name for it.
Focal neuropathy is a type of acute neuropathy that essentially affects nerves in the brain (especially ones that go to the eyes). The torso and legs might also be affected.
Symptoms of diabetic neuropathy
Diabetic neuropathy symptoms vary depending on the type of neuropathy you have. The severity of symptoms depends on the nerves that underwent injury. Diabetic neuropathy symptoms usually appear gradually. At first, they may be mild and rare aches or disturbances, but as the nerves get progressively deteriorated, symptoms may worsen.
Peripheral neuropathy symptoms
- Sensations of burning, stabbing, or electric shocks
- Feelings of numbness
- Muscle deterioration
- Coordination issues
- Muscle twitching and cramping
- Temperature intolerance
- Extreme sensitivity to the slightest of touches
Autonomic neuropathy symptoms
- Loose bowel motions (diarrhea)
- Stool that is difficult to pass (constipation)
- After only a few bites of food, you feel less hungry or full.
- Throwing up partially digested food
- Having difficulty ingesting.
- Acid reflux
Proximal neuropathy symptoms
The buttocks, hips, thighs, and legs are all affected by proximal neuropathy. Its symptoms are typically short-lived, and they may disappear after a few weeks or months.
The symptoms are as follows:
- Legs are swollen and shaky.
- Trouble in standing up from a sitting position without assistance
- On one side of your body, you may have sudden, intense pain in the hip, upper thigh, and buttock.
- After your leg symptoms improve, you may experience pain or weakness in the arms.
Focal neuropathy symptoms
Focal neuropathy generally affects the head, chest, or legs. These aren’t long-term symptoms; they typically go away within a few weeks.
- Pain in a specific, small region of the body, such as the wrist or the foot. Soreness and discomfort may develop gradually over weeks or months when focal neuropathy causes nerve entrapment.
- Double vision, pain in and around one eye, and difficulty moving the eyes
A physical exam and a thorough assessment of your symptoms and medical history are typically enough for a clinician to diagnose diabetic neuropathy.
Your doctor may perform or prescribe specialized tests to identify diabetic neuropathy in addition to the physical exam, such as:
- Autonomic testing
- Muscle response testing
- Nerve conduction testing
- Sensory testing
- Filament test
After a successful diagnosis, the doctor can suggest the appropriate diabetic neuropathy treatment.
There is no recognized cure for diabetic neuropathy. The treatment’s objectives are to:
- Slow down disease progression
- Alleviate pain and discomfort
- Manage neuropathy problems and restore usual function
You may need the support of different experts to handle complications, such as a urologist (a doctor who treats urinary system problems) and a cardiologist (a specialist who treats heart problems).
The neuropathy-related problem you’re dealing with determines the required treatment.
Urinary tract problems
Because certain medications influence bladder function, your doctor may advise you to stop taking them or change them. Some bladder issues are treatable by following a rigorous urination schedule or urinating every few hours (timed urination) while providing mild pressure to the bladder region (below the belly button). For discharging urine from a nerve-damaged bladder, other procedures like self-catheterization may be a requirement.
Doctors recommend eating smaller, more frequent portions to reduce minor manifestations and symptoms of gastroparesis, such as indigestion, belching, nausea, and vomiting. Gastroparesis, diarrhea, constipation, and nausea may be relieved with dietary modifications and medicines.
Simple lifestyle adjustments, such as avoiding alcohol, consuming lots of water, and slowly shifting postures, such as sitting or standing, are the first steps in treatment. Blood pressure fluctuations are avoidable by sleeping with the head of the bed elevated. Compression support for your abdomen may also be advisable (abdominal binder).
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Some men may benefit from medications given by mouth or injection, but they aren’t safe or effective for everyone. The use of mechanical suction devices to enhance blood flow to the penis may be beneficial. Vaginal lubricants may provide relief for women.
If you have diabetes, neuropathy may be a very genuine concern. Treatment for neuropathy depends on the type and symptoms of your disease. Even though this condition isn’t entirely curable, these treatment options might help to a certain extent. However, controlling your blood sugar from an early stage can make a significant improvement.