Have you ever woken up with your arm totally numb? Maybe you sit on an uncomfortable chair and your toes start to tingle from time to time. This happens because the nerves are being starved of blood and the signal is getting blocked or shut of entirely until you move and get the blood supply back to the tingly numb area. For those with diabetes though, this problem can occur without pinching off the blood supply and in many occasions can be permanent. This is what we call Diabetic Neuropathy. Diabetic neuropathy is nerve damage that results from an overabundance of glucose, or sugars, in the blood. We will be taking a look at Peripheral Neuropathy specifically today, the most common form of diabetic neuropathy that affects the feet and legs first.
It’s safe to assume that everyone at one point or another has had an arm or a leg ‘fall asleep’ or go numb or tingly, so how can you know that this isn’t a temporary circulation problem and is actually neuropathy? First of all, are you diabetic or at risk of diabetes? If so, you have a much higher risk of neuropathy than someone without it. Second factor is the location of the numbness and duration of numbed sensation. Diabetic neuropathy begins at the extremities, your toes, feet, and even legs. The circulatory issues combined with the increased blood glucose levels are a very dangerous combination for your nervous system.
So, now we know some of the risk factors. But what does, or doesn’t, Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy feel like? The first and most obvious symptom is numbness or reduced ability to feel things, even a reduced sensitivity to temperature. Next is a tingling sensation or even a lingering burning feeling in the affected areas like toes or feet in general. Another sign that may be less obvious is cramping. Cramping or sharp pain in the areas affected by neuropathy is a common sign. Next, and seemingly backward from normal neuropathy, is an increase in sensitivity in the affected areas. Sometimes the lightest touch can feel painful to people suffering from diabetic neuropathy.
Sadly, at present, there isn’t a cure for diabetic or peripheral neuropathy. Once those nerves deaden there isn’t anything we can do to revive them. That being said, what can you do to prevent or manage or mitigate the risks? As with many health problems we face, there are some common steps to take that can help. First is a healthy diet and a healthy weight. Research shows that people with a BMI, or body weight to body fat, the ratio of 25 or more can be a large component of neuropathy. Diabetes is dangerous, and that danger is only amplified the longer you have it, so managing your blood sugar is imperative. Prolonged blood sugar mismanagement all but guarantees you will experience neuropathy. The last and arguably most obvious risk is smoking. At this point everyone has to know that smoking is extremely irresponsible and dangerous to your body. Smoking hardens your arteries and veins making circulation difficult, leading to neuropathy among a host of other horrific illnesses.
If you are diabetic or think you are suffering from neuropathy in any way, come in today to speak with one of our doctors about your feet and the risks you face.