Diabetes and Neuropathy
Over time, diabetes and high blood sugar levels can cause damage
to the nerves in your body, a condition called neuropathy. As many as 70%
of people with diabetes have some form of nerve damage. Diabetic
neuropathy and its symptoms can worsen or become permanent with increased blood
sugar levels; some symptoms may improve if no permanent damage has occurred.
One type of diabetic neuropathy is autonomic neuropathy, damage to the
nerves which supply the internal organs and blood vessels. Another type is
peripheral neuropathy, damage to the nerves in your muscles and extremities
(feet and legs).
This condition affects your heart. This can cause a
failure in your heart rate or blood pressure to adjust properly, resulting in
dizziness and unsteadiness.
Your stomach and digestive system can also be affected.
Changes in the way food is moved throughout the body can cause nausea, vomiting,
constipation, and diarrhea.
Sexual dysfunction for both men and women can also be a sign of
Medications and lifestyle changes can help all of these symptoms
if caught early enough.
The following symptoms are often associated with peripheral
neuropathy: muscle weakness in the legs, pain in the feet or legs,
tingling, burning, or numbness in the feet or hand, and decreased pain sensation
and loss of feeling in the feet.
It is important to maintain good blood sugar levels to reduce
the likelihood of neuropathy. As an added precaution, you should also seek
the care of a podiatrist about proper foot care.
Proper Foot Care
Diabetes is the leading cause of foot amputations in the
country. Nerve damage and poor circulation can make your feet susceptible
to problems such as ulcers and infections that won't heal. This may also
lead to a loss of sensation in the feet, making it difficult to detect pain or
heat. By practicing good preventive foot care and recognizing problems
early, almost all foot problems can be avoided.
Keep your blood sugar levels as near to normal as possible.
If you smoke, stop! Smoking causes atherosclerosis
(clogged arteries), raises blood pressure, and decreases blood flow in the feet.
Get physical activity on a regular basis to improve circulation.
Never go barefoot. Instead wear well-fitting running or
walking shoes and good cotton socks. As a tip, buy shoes at the end of the
day when your feet are larger to make sure your shoes fit properly.
Check your shoes every day for foreign objects such as pebbles,
and look for worn areas that may cause rubbing or blisters.
Practice good foot hygiene. Wash your feet every day with
mild soap, rinse and dry thoroughly, and rub in a good moisture cream (but
not between the toes). Check for red areas or cracks between the toes, and
trim nails so that the edges are straight across.
Do not use astringents that dry your feet, or use
over-the-counter preparations for calluses and corns. Do not soak your
feet or use heating pads.
Have a foot exam at least once a year. If you have had
foot problems, you should have a foot exam at every regular office visit.
Report problems to your health professional immediately, such as
cuts or breaks in the skin, changes in color or red spots, or loss of feeling or
pain in the feet.
Pharmaceuticals North America, Inc.. : , 2002.