Understanding Diabetic Neuropathy
Most people think of diabetes as a silent, painless condition. But millions of people, over 50% of the people with diabetes in fact, suffer from neuropathy. Diabetic neuropathy is a type of nerve damage caused by diabetes, and it is a progressive disease that worsens over time without management and care.
High blood sugar will, over time, injure blood vessels and nerves throughout the body. The earliest ones affected are the smallest ones, furthest from the spinal cord. Hence, the most common type of diabetic neuropathy is called peripheral neuropathy, and it affects the toes, feet, and lower legs. Common symptoms include a tingling sensation, or numbness and reduced ability to feel pain in the affected areas, along with more serious effects like loss of circulation, ulcers, poor wound healing, infection, or even amputation and loss of life.
There is no cure for neuropathy, so management of both neuropathy, and the diabetes that caused it, are critical for your health, comfort and longevity. The most important thing you can do is keep your blood pressure at or as close as possible to daily and long-term targets. This can help prevent the onset or worsening of neuropathy.
Controlling blood pressure is another critical step. Just like high blood sugar, high blood pressure damages blood vessels, interfering with circulation and leading to further nerve damage. Quitting smoking and getting regular exercise also will improve circulation, improving the health of your feet.
In diabetes patients, your doctor should be performing at least a yearly foot exam, but take the opportunity every day to inspect your own feet for anything out of the ordinary.