What Is Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy?
Diabetic Neuropathy is a significant complication of diabetes usually in association with chronically elevated blood glucose levels. Elevated glucose levels damage the nerves in the feet and legs, resulting in numbness, tingling, and burning.
If numbness occurs, it can be very difficult to detect if there is a wound on the foot. For this very reason, neuropathy is significant, as diabetic patients are at high risk for ulcerations, infection, and amputation.
If you are not able to feel a puncture of the skin, or an inflamed callus, or even pain that usually follows any trauma, a cut or scratch can be overlooked and eventually result in an infected wound.
What are the causes?
Neuropathy is caused by decreased blood flow to the nerves and high blood sugar levels. Neuropathy is more likely to develop if blood sugar levels are not well controlled.
About half of people diagnosed with diabetes will develop neuropathy. Most of the time, symptoms do not begin until 10-20 years after diabetes has been diagnosed.
Tingling or burning in the legs and feet may be an early sign of nerve damage. These sensations often start in your toes and feet. Additional symptoms can include loss of balance, muscle weakness, and changes in foot shape. These changes in the foot shape can lead to areas of increased pressure, calluses, and dry and cracked skin.
Evaluation and Diagnosis
In addition to a thorough foot exam where your doctor will check for normal reflexes and sensation, your foot and ankle physician may order an EMG (a record of electrical activity in muscles) and/or NCV (nerve conduction velocity tests) which is a recording of the speed at which signals travel along the nerves.
It is vital to keep your blood sugar in a healthy range to prevent neuropathy or to keep the condition from worsening. Some treatment options can included:
- Anti-depressants – these work by blocking pain receptors and usually take about a month to be effective.
- Neurontin is one of the most commonly used and effective medications to help with pain caused by neuropathy.
- Capsaicin is a topical cream applied to areas affected by neuropathy. Patients should try it on a small area to see if they are allergic to it first before applying a significant amount.
The medications listed above can be helpful in treating the discomfort of neuropathy, but prevention continues to be the number one way of avoiding the discomfort associated with this condition. By taking control of your blood glucose, you may be able to reduce symptoms associated with neuropathy or avoid them altogether. Remember to visit your Cornerstone Foot & Ankle doctor regularly for a comprehensive diabetic foot exam. Call NOW or request you appointment TODAY!