What is Diabetic Neuropathy?
Diabetic neuropathy is nerve damage due to high levels of glucose (sugar) and fats in the blood. The additional sugar in your blood causes damage to the blood vessels that provide the nerves with oxygen and nutrients. This “starvation” damages the nerves, in turn. The damaged nerves cannot transmit the correct signals to the brain, so your body starts feeling sensations that may not be there or stops feeling sensations that are.
Keep reading to learn more about the four types of diabetic neuropathy.
Your torso is the core of your body, and your limbs are the peripheral (on or at the edge). Peripheral neuropathy most often affects the legs and feet, but can also occur in the arms and hands.
Peripheral neuropathy is the most common type of diabetic neuropathy, impacting nearly one-half of all diabetes patients. Lack of feeling in the feet or legs can lead to infections, gangrene, and, in the worst cases, amputation.
Autonomic neuropathy affects the nerves that serve the autonomic organs. The autonomic organs, like the lungs, kidneys, and heart, work independently of conscious thought. An added danger of autonomic neuropathy is hypoglycemia unawareness. Those who have hypoglycemia unawareness are unable to identify the triggers that inform people with diabetes that they are in danger. These triggers sometimes appear as palpitations or sweating.
Mononeuropathy, also called focal neuropathy, affects a single nerve. The most common focal neuropathy is entrapment syndrome, such as carpal or cubital tunnel syndrome.
Proximal neuropathy usually affects one side of the body in the upper leg area. Damaged nerves in the hip, buttock, and thigh cause severe pain and muscle weakness on that side of the body and can be disabling.
Signs of Diabetic Neuropathy
If you have diabetes, you are at risk of diabetic neuropathy. Symptoms vary among the different types of neuropathy. Some signs include:
- Numbness or tingling in the hands, feet, legs, or arms
- Loss of sensation
- Fast heartbeat
- Sexual Dysfunction
Be aware this is not a complete list of symptoms. Diabetic neuropathy is a progressive disease; the symptoms develop slowly and worsen over time. It can take years for the symptoms to become noticeable, and there is no known cure.
If you are experiencing any of these or similar symptoms, please see your endocrinologist.
Diagnosis of Diabetic Neuropathy
Diabetic neuropathy can be diagnosed through regular physical examinations to check for physical signs, including weakened muscle tone, sores on your feet, and sensitivity to touch. Additional tests include various nerve tests to measure how well your nerves are working.
While there is no cure for this condition, treatment is available. The goals of treatment are to slow and, hopefully, reverse the progression of the damage. It also provides pain relief for many with the condition.
Our Approach to Treatment
At Olympic Spine and Sports Therapy, we take a unique approach to treating diabetic neuropathy. Our goal is to rehabilitate the nerves, rather than mask the symptoms. We offer a free consultation to prospective patients. Our doctor will examine you to determine if you’re a candidate for our customized treatment plan.
We do not take on patients we cannot treat. We will assess how our treatments will affect you and explain what you can expect. Offering our patients realistic advice is as important to us as effectively treating them.
Olympic Spine and Sports Therapy treatment plans include on-site and at-home therapy. During your free consultation session, your therapist will customize a plan based on the type and extent of your neuropathy. Our plans do not include drugs or surgery and are pain-free.
On-site therapy includes state-of-the-art equipment and hands-on physical therapy. Depending on your treatment plan, you might receive non-invasive laser treatment, balance therapy, musculoskeletal manipulation (chiropractic care), or other treatment methods. Your Olympic Spine and Sports therapist will work with you to devise an at-home therapy plan that you can reasonably accommodate.
For your treatment to be most effective, you should complement the on-site therapy with continued treatment at home, including stretches and exercises. Performing the at-home therapy twice a day will
keep your recovery on track. In addition to the stretches and exercises, your at-home therapy might include thermal contrast therapy (alternately applying heat and cold to the area), nerve stimulation, and balance exercises.
In addition to your treatments at Olympic Spine and Sports therapy, you can reduce the danger of diabetic neuropathy by following a dietary plan, getting regular exercise, and being extra mindful of your feet.
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