Diabetic neuropathy – lesions of nerves that belong to peripheral nervous system. These are nerves with which brain and spinal cord control muscles and internal organs. Diabetic neuropathy is a common and dangerous complication of diabetes. It causes a variety of symptoms.
Peripheral nervous system is divided into somatic and autonomic. With the help of somatic nervous system, a person consciously controls movement of muscles. Autonomic nervous system regulates breathing, palpitation, hormone production, digestion, etc.
Unfortunately, diabetic neuropathy affects both. Violations of function of somatic nervous system can cause strong pains or make a diabetic disabled, for example, because of problems with legs. Autonomic neuropathy increases risk of sudden death – for example, due to heart rhythm disturbances.
The main cause of diabetic neuropathy is chronically increased sugar in blood. This complication of diabetes does not develop immediately, but for many years. The good news: if you lower blood sugar and learn to keep it stable, your nerves are gradually restored, and symptoms of diabetic neuropathy are completely gone. Below Canadian Health&Care Mall tells how to achieve that at diabetes sugar in blood is stably normal.
Diabetic Neuropathy: Symptoms
Diabetic neuropathy can affect nerves that control various muscles and internal organs. Therefore, its symptoms are very diverse. In the most general case, they are divided into «positive» and «negative».
- «active» (positive) symptoms:
- knife-like pain;
- shoots, «electric shocks»;
- hyperalgesia – an abnormally high sensitivity to pain stimuli;
- allodynia – a feeling of pain when exposed to non-stimulus, for example, a light touch;
- «passive» (negative) symptoms:
- unstable walking.
Many patients have both.
List of symptoms that can be caused by diabetic neuropathy:
- numbness and tingling in limbs;
- erectile dysfunction in men;
- loss of control over the bladder – incontinence or incomplete emptying;
- flabbiness, sagging of muscles of face, mouth or eyelids;
- problems with vision due to impaired mobility of the eyeball;
- muscle weakness;
- difficulties with swallowing;
- violation of speech;
- muscle cramps;
- anorgasmia in women;
- burning pain in muscles or «electric shocks».
Now we will describe in detail symptoms of two types of diabetic neuropathy, which patients need to know about, because they are found especially often.
Sensory Motor Neuropathy
Long nerve fibers extend to lower extremities, and they are the most vulnerable to damaging effect of diabetes. Sensory motor neuropathy is manifested by the fact that patient gradually ceases to feel signals from his legs. The list of these signals includes pain, high body temperature, high blood pressure, vibration, position in space.
A diabetic who developed sensorimotor neuropathy can, for example, step on a nail, get injured, but do not feel it and go easy on. Also, he will not feel if his foot is injured by too tight or uncomfortable shoes, or if temperature in the water in bath is too high.
In this situation, usually there are wounds and ulcers on legs, there may be dislocation or fracture of bones. All this is called a diabetic foot syndrome. Sensory motor neuropathy can be manifested not only by loss of sensitivity, but also by burning or stitching pain in legs, especially at night.
Diabetic Autonomic Neuropathy
Autonomic nervous system consists of nerves that control heart, lungs, blood vessels, bone and fat tissue, digestive system, genitourinary system, sweat glands. Any of these nerves can affect diabetic autonomic neuropathy.
Most often it causes dizziness or fainting with a sharp rise. Risk of sudden death due to violation of heart rhythm increases about 4 times. Slowly moving food from stomach into intestines is called gastroparesis. This complication leads to the fact that level of glucose in blood fluctuates very much, and it becomes very difficult to keep blood sugar in a stable state.
Autonomic neuropathy can cause urinary incontinence or incomplete emptying of the bladder. In the latter case, an infection can develop in the bladder, which eventually rises and damages kidneys. If nerves that control filling of penis with the blood are affected, then men experience erectile dysfunction.
Causes of Diabetic Neuropathy
The main cause of all forms of diabetic neuropathy is chronically increased blood sugar level in patient, if it stays consistently high for several years. There are several mechanisms for development of this complication of diabetes. We will consider two main ones.
Increased blood glucose levels damage small blood vessels (capillaries) that nourish nerves. Penetration of capillaries for blood flow is reduced. As a result, nerves begin to «choke» due to lack of oxygen, and conductivity of nerve impulses decreases or completely disappears.
Glycation is connection of glucose with proteins. The higher concentration of glucose in blood, the more proteins are exposed to this reaction. Unfortunately, glycation of many proteins leads to disruption of their functioning. This applies, in particular, to proteins that form nervous system. Many of final glycation products are poisons for human body.
How Doctor Makes Diagnosis
To diagnose diabetic neuropathy, the doctor checks whether the patient feels a touch, pressure, pain, cold and heat. Sensitivity to vibration is checked with a tuning fork. Sensitivity to pressure – with the help of a device called monofilament. Also, the doctor will find out if the patient has a knee-jerk reflex.
It is obvious that a diabetic himself can easily test himself for neuropathy. For self-examination of sensitivity to touch, for example, cotton swabs are suitable. To check if your feet feel temperature, any warm and cool items will do.
A physician can use sophisticated medical equipment to deliver a more accurate diagnosis. He will determine the type of diabetic neuropathy and the stage of its development, that is, how much nerves are affected. But treatment in any case will be approximately the same. Canadian Health and Care Mall will discuss it below in this article.
Treatment of Diabetic Neuropathy
The main way to treat diabetic neuropathy is to lower blood sugar and learn how to sustain it consistently, as in healthy people without diabetes. All other medical measures do not have a small part of the effect that control of glucose in blood has. This applies not only to neuropathy, but to all other complications of diabetes.
If diabetic neuropathy causes severe pain, then doctor can prescribe medications to alleviate suffering.
Drugs that are used for symptomatic treatment of pain in diabetic polyneuropathy:
- tricyclic antidepressants;
- inhibitors of serotonin/norepinephrine reuptake;
Attention! All these medicines have significant side effects. They can only be used as prescribed by doctor, if pain becomes completely unbearable. Many patients are convinced that to tolerate side effects of these drugs is even worse than to suffer pain due to damage to nerves. Also, these drugs can increase blood sugar levels.
To treat diabetic neuropathy people use antioxidants and B vitamins, especially B12 in the form of methyl cobalamin. Data on effectiveness of this is contradictory. In any case, Canadian Pharmacy Mall recommend that you try alpha-lipoic acid and a complex of B vitamins.
Diabetic Neuropathy is Completely Curable!
For the end, we saved good news for you. Neuropathy is one of the reversible complications of diabetes. This means that if you can lower your blood sugar and maintain it stably normal, you can expect that symptoms of nerve damage will be completely gone and you will be living live with diabetes as if it doesn’t exist at all.
It can take from a few months to several years until nerves begin to recover, but this really happens. In particular, sensitivity of legs is restored, and threat of «diabetic foot» disappears. This should be an incentive for you to make every effort to intensively control blood sugar.
Erectile dysfunction in men can be caused by lesion of nerves that control penis, or blockage of blood vessels that nourish its cavernous body. In the first case, potency is completely restored together with disappearance of other symptoms of diabetic neuropathy. But if diabetes has managed to cause problems with blood vessels, the prognosis is worse.
Canadian Health Care Mall team hopes that this article was useful for patients and revealed some myths on diabetes. Remember, that for today there are no medicines that would really help in treatment of diabetic neuropathy. Data on effectiveness of alpha-lipoic acid and B-group vitamins are contradictory.
The best way to treat diabetic neuropathy is to maintain your blood sugar in the norm. After reading articles on this website, you already know a real way to achieve this. In addition to low-carbohydrate diet, we recommend that you try alpha-lipoic acid and B vitamins in large doses. The benefits can be significant. Perhaps supplements will speed up your getting rid of symptoms of nerve conduction disorders. Don’t forget about exercises but remember that too much exercise is bad for diabetes, so in everything you should be moderate.