The brain is the central processing unit of the human body. It controls everything our body does from eating to thinking as well as breathing and digestion. Our brain does this by sending signals all throughout our body which is connected by a giant network of nerves. Nerves send and receive signals to and from the brain in order maintain a healthy working system, however, there are some cases where these nerves can get damaged, and this is known as neuropathy. It is very common for people with diabetes (especially people who have been living with diabetes for 25 years or more) to develop some degree of nerve damage which is classified as diabetic neuropathy. Let’s take a look at the relationship between diabetes and neuropathy as well as the symptoms and effects neuropathy can have on someone.
Diabetic neuropathy affects roughly 60-70% of the diabetic population. The intensity of neuropathy can range from something very mild to severe, normally taking years to progress. It is believed that there is a direct correlation between blood sugar control and the onset of diabetic neuropathy. This is because our nerves are connected to blood vessels and when these vessels get damaged due to poor blood glucose control, it can diminish the uptake of oxygen required to function properly, damaging the nerve as well. Some researchers also believe that people with autoimmune disorders (type 1 diabetes) as well as kidney disease maybe more susceptible to nerve damage due to increased risks of inflamed nerves as well as increased levels of blood toxins.
Mild forms of Neuropathy are often overlooked, however, some symptoms may include:
- Numbness and tingling in your extremities (arms, legs, feet, and hands)
- Erectile dysfunction (men)/vaginal dryness (women)
There are different types of neuropathy depending on which nerves are being affected. The four major ones include:
- Peripheral neuropathy-most common among diabetics, normally associated with loss of sensation in your feet and hands
- Autonomic neuropathy-these nerves deal with your unconscious muscles and organ functions such as your heart, bladder, lungs etc. (can even cause hypoglycemia unawareness!!)
- Proximal neuropathy– normally affects sensation in your thighs, hips, butt and can lead to weakness in your legs (this form of neuropathy is more common in older people with type 2 diabetes)
- Focal Neuropathy– focuses on a single nerve and can normally be located in the face, torso or legs. This type of neuropathy can cause severe amounts of pain, however, it is not linked to any long term complications
There can be a number of complications that can arise from severe nerve damage some which include: amputation, urinary tract infection, hypoglycemia unawareness, sexual dysfunction and digestive problems. It is important to try and prolong the onset of diabetic neuropathy for as long as possible. This can be achieved by following a healthy diet and exercise plan. Make sure your blood pressure is under control and if you smoke and drink you should probably try and quit or avoid it as much as possible. If you already have signs of diabetic neuropathy then talk to your doctor about possible medications to help cope with these issues as there is no cure for it. Try and keep your blood sugar levels within a good range and with proper management of your diabetes you can prolong the progression of diabetic neuropathy by a great extent.
Note: The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek medical advice for any questions regarding a medical condition or changes in your treatment.