Many believe that diabetes is a painless condition with little risk of serious complications, but beyond serious complications of diabetes like kidney disease, many diabetic patients report a tingling sensation in their feet or toes, which is a sign of diabetic neuropathy, the symptoms of which can be potentially life-threatening.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, diabetic neuropathy affects nerves close to the surface of your skin. This type of nerve damage is more prominent in people with type 2 diabetes or type 1 diabetes.
Symptoms of diabetic neuropathy are typically displayed by numbness and pain in the hands and feet. When the condition becomes more severe, patients can experience issues with their urinary tract, digestive system, heart, and blood vessels/blood pressure.
How Is Neuropathy Triggered by Diabetes?
Chronically high blood sugar levels damage the nerves throughout the body and prevents them from carrying messages to and from the brain and the rest of the body.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), 40% to 60% of diabetics will develop peripheral neuropathy, but different types of nerve damage caused by the condition are not entirely inevitable.
Studies have shown that diabetics who keep their blood sugar low by eating healthy and exercising regularly can prevent or slow the progression of peripheral neuropathy.
These cells are unable to tell the brain whether you have pain in your feet or hands or whether you feel heat or cold. You may not even be able to feel whether you have a cut or a sore on your foot.
Common Symptoms of Neuropathy
- Muscle weakness or fatigue
- Pain in your hands or feet
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Sensitivity to touch
- Excessive sweating
- Difficulty walking
- Increased heart rate
- Bladder issues
- Double vision
The pain and discomfort from nerve damage appear gradually. Some diabetics will first feel tingling and later feel pain.
Since these changes can happen over a period of years, many will not even notice them, and in many cases, the signs of nerve damage are ignored because people believe it’s part of getting older.
Different Types of Diabetic Neuropathy
There are four major types of diabetic neuropathy. Patients can have one or more than one type of neuropathy.
This type is also called distal symmetric peripheral neuropathy and is the most common type of diabetic neuropathy.
Affecting the feet and legs, it can also affect the hands and arms, and since diabetes can lead to poor blood circulation, people can have trouble feeling sores or injuries in these areas. When these areas don’t heal correctly, diabetics are at risk of developing infection and may have to amputate in extreme cases.
Symptoms may include:
- Reduced ability to feel pain and notice temperature changes
- Sharp pains or cramps
- Tingling or burning sensation
- Increased sensitivity to touch
- Serious problems with your feet, including infections, ulcers, and joint pain
The autonomic nervous system runs through your heart, bladder, intestines, stomach, eyes, and sex organs. Diabetes can cause damage to the nerves in these organs.
- Bladder and bowel problems
- Not being aware that blood sugar levels are low
- Nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite
- Eyes not being able to adjust to light properly
- Decreased sexual response
This type of neuropathy is known to affect the nerves in the hips, thighs, buttocks, and legs. Symptoms usually only appear on one side of the body but may spread to the other side.
- Weak and shrinking thigh muscles
- Extreme pain in the thigh, hip, or buttock
- Difficulty getting up out of your seat
- Severe stomach pain
Focal Neuropathy (Mononeuropathy)
Focal Neuropathy refers to the damage of a specific nerve. Some of the symptoms that might arise from focal neuropathy are:
- Soreness behind one eye
- Trouble seeing or double vision
- Paralysis on one side of your face
- Tingling or numbness in your hand or fingers
- Weakness in your hand so you are unable to grip objects
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