Diabetic neuropathy is damage to nerves and accompanying pain that occurs as a complication of diabetes. If left untreated, this condition can be seriously debilitating and even fatal.
High blood glucose (blood sugar) levels can wreak havoc on the nerves, especially over a prolonged period of time; other factors that come with diabetes, such as abnormal levels of blood fat and low levels of insulin can also contribute. Other issues such as autoimmune inflammation, physical damage from an injury, or lifestyle choices such as tobacco or alcohol use, can contribute to or exacerbate this damage.
Neuropathy can affect any nerves in the body, but with diabetes, it most often affects the limbs, particularly the legs and feet. The nerves in the digestive or urinary systems may also become damaged, along with those in the heart and other organ systems.
Some people don’t experience symptoms for many years, or they present so mildly that they go unnoticed or unreported. However, there are some tell-tale signs: pain, tingling, or numbness in the arms and legs are some of the most common symptoms, along with muscles weakness and changes in ability perceive temperature or physical touch. Changes in bowel or urination habits – diarrhea, constipation, losing control of your bladder, difficulty urinating – can indicate autonomic nerve damage. Changes in blood pressure, like dizziness upon standing or sitting, as well as alterations in eyesight – difficulty adjusting from light to dark, double vision, trouble focusing – are also potential indications of neuropathy.
Maintaining safe and stable blood sugar levels, drinking plenty of water, and getting enough exercise are crucial to both preventing and managing diabetic neuropathy. Depending on the type and level of nerve damage, medication may be recommended; these can include anti-seizure medications and antidepressants. Early intervention can make a significant difference, so if you suspect you have nerve damage as a result of diabetes, consult your doctor for testing.
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