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Understanding Diabetic Neuropathy

Posted February 8, 2018

Diabetic neuropathy is a type of nerve damage that can occur if you have diabetes. It is a progressive disease and symptoms worsen over time. About half of all people with diabetes have some form of nerve damage. While it is common in those with diabetes, it is more common to those who don’t control their control their blood sugar levels. Overall, there are 4 common types of neuropathy--all of which have may present themselves with different symptoms.

Peripheral Neuropathy

This is the most common form of diabetic neuropathy. Signs and symptoms of are often worse at night, and may include:
  • Numbness or reduced ability to feel pain or temperature changes
  • A tingling or burning sensation
  • Increased sensitivity to touch
  • Serious foot problems, such as ulcers, infections, deformities, and bone and joint pain

Autonomic Neuropathy

This affects autonomic nervous system, which controls the heart, bladder, eyes, lungs, among other organs. These areas of the body can be affected by diabetes, possibly causing:
  • Bladder problems, including urinary tract infections or urinary retention or incontinence
  • Constipation, uncontrolled diarrhea or a combination of the two
  • Changes in the way your eyes adjust from light to dark
  • Increased heart rate when you're at rest

Proximal Neuropathy

This affects the buttocks, thighs, hips, and legs. Symptoms aren’t usually long-term, and may include:
  • Weakness in the legs
  • Sudden, severe pain in your hip, upper thigh and/or buttock on one side of the body
  • Trouble standing up from a seated position without help 

Focal Neuropathy

Unlike the other types, focal neuropathy comes on suddenly and it affects the head, torso, or legs. Symptoms may include:
  • Sudden paralysis of one side of the face (Bell’s palsy)
  • Pain in the chest
  • Pain on the outside of the shin
  • Pain on the inside of the foot

Treatment Neuropathy

Diabetic neuropathy cannot be cured. However, you may find that topical creams or painkiller medication can help. It is important to note that not everyone can find relief with over-the-counter pain medication, especially those with severe nerve pain. A warm bath can also provide relief.

By and large, the most effective way to treat neuropathy is by slowing the progression of diabetes through smart lifestyle choices and self-care. This means eating correctly, taking your medication, avoiding tobacco, reducing alcohol consumption, and closely monitoring your blood glucose levels.