What Is Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy?
Diabetic neuropathies are a family of nerve disorders triggered by diabetes. There are four forms of this disease, with diabetic peripheral neuropathy being the most common. Diabetic peripheral neuropathy occurs when a patient’s feet and legs are affected by nerve damage, followed by the hands and arms.
Diabetic peripheral neurophathy will first show signs in the feet, then cramps in ones legs, and unlike other neuropathies, the pain in the leg will be on both outsides of the leg, and along the shinbone.
The Mayo Clinic points out that while the cause of the disease is unclear, a combination of factors likely play a role in the development of diabetic neuropathy, such as the complex interaction between nerves and blood vessels.
High blood sugar levels are known to interfere with the nerves’ ability to transmit signals and weaken the capillaries or walls of the small blood vessels that provide oxygen and nutrients to the nerves.
As long as 20 years in the making, this type of neuropathy started, and some may have drank too much in their 20’s or 30’s, been around heavy metals, or had a sweet tooth all of which might have been accompanied by too much stress in ones life, and is now stressing your body.
Symptoms and Complications of Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy
Some of the initial symptoms of diabetic peripheral neuropathy include:
- Numbness or insensitivity to pain or temperature
At a point in your life you may have been able to handle cold or hot temperatures better than your peers, and now mainly the cold is very hard on your body.
- A tingling, burning or prickling sensation
One of the earliest symptoms is to have a burning or hot sensation in the bottom of ones feet, and mostly ignored. Then a prickly, or even itchy type of sensation would have followed.
- Sharp pains or cramps
People get cramps, especially in their legs and brush it off. They may even go to the doctor and get something for them, and that is it.
- Extreme sensitivity to touch, even light touch
Sometimes a soft touch is nice, but when one gets that “creepy” feeling along with it, that is sensitivity.
- Muscle weakness
When you say to yourself ” I use to do this, and I remember I use to be able to do that” Those are , and should be a large red flag to your healthcare provider. Muscle weakness is a powerful warning sign.
- Loss of reflexes, especially in the ankle
Did you ever wake up and feel like you twisted your ankle, but you dont remember anything? When you walk, does it feel like you are flat footed, but it probably is your ankle reflexes gone. Orthopedic shoes are usually recommended, but in fact will make this problem worse.
- Loss of balance and coordination
Dizziness, tripping, occasionally feeling like you are leaning to one side or the other. Not able to try out for a tightrope walker? When you tell this to your healthcare provider, they want to check your ears right away. They may even send you to see someone else, and some precautionary measures may be taken, but they dont have an answer.
- Serious foot problems such as ulcers, infections, deformities and bone and joint pain
Notice if any of the bones in your feet and/or toes have changed shape.
These are some of the main symptoms at the first level, with each level there are more symptoms. If you have been diagnosed with neuropathy and also diabetes it is good to know these symptoms, and what might happen if you ignore them.
These symptoms are known to worsen at night. Many diabetics already show signs of neuropathy that a doctor can take note of, but patients themselves don’t feel them.
If left untreated, diabetic peripheral neuropathy can lead to muscle weakness and loss of reflexes, especially at the ankle, eventually causing changes in the way a person walks. Foot deformities, such as hammertoes (a deformity that causes the toe to bend or curl downward instead of pointing forward) and the collapse of the midfoot, may occur too.
Should pressure or an injury remain unnoticed, this can prompt blisters and sores to appear on numb areas of the foot. If there is an infection that’s not treated immediately, it can spread to the bone and may require the foot to be amputated. Fortunately, many amputations are preventable if minor problems are examined and treated immediately.
This is not necessarily something one has to live with. There are many methods people have used to send this disease into remission, sometimes permanently, or at least try to decrease the symptoms, and not move on to a worse state.
This is a progressive disease, and you want to STOP it!, NOT, put up with it!
Other Risk Factors of Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy can also be triggered by factors apart from diabetes, namely:
- Shingles (post herpetic neuralgia)
Never get the shingles shot, if you think you have this condition
- Vitamin deficiency, particularly of vitamin B9 (folate) and B12
Do not start taking either of these supplements without a good provider telling you the other supplements that MUST be taken with them, so as to cause no more harm.
- Alcohol intake
- Autoimmune diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis or Guillain-Barre syndrome
If this disease is not handled correctly you will develop one of these conditions also.
- AIDS, whether from the disease or its treatment, or from syphilis or kidney failure
- Inherited diseases such as amyloid polyneuropathy or Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease
- Exposure to toxins, such as heavy metals, gold compounds, lead, arsenic, mercury and organophosphate pesticides
If you work with metals, you have a greater chance to develop this condition. Stay away from heavy metal work, if you are already a diabetic, and also fertilizer.
- Cancer therapy drugs like vincristine (Oncovin and Vincasar) and antibiotics including metronidazole (Flagyl) and isoniazid
Remember these medicatios, and have your healthcare provider order something else.
- Diseases such as neurofibromatosis, Fabry disease, Tangier diseases, hereditary sensory autonomic neuropathy and hereditary amyloidosis (albeit rare)
- Statins — neuropathy caused by this group of medications is rising at an alarming rate. Yet, sometimes some of the symptoms are masked.
Do everything you can to get off of a statin drug, especially if you are already a diabetic.
Diabetic peripheral neuropathy is a major health concern. If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned here, consult a good healthcare provider immediately. If someone you know exhibits these signs, but is unaware that they are symptoms of diabetic peripheral neuropathy, talk to them about having their condition checked.
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You can make a big impact in improving their health and may even help save their lives by being aware of this disorder.
Health and Wellness Associates