Diabetic Neuropathy – A complication of Diabetes Mellitus

Posted in Health and Fitness on November 29, 2013
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Diabetes is a disorder of elevated blood sugar levels. Neuropathy is a condition wherein nerves in the body are damaged. Diabetic neuropathy is therefore nerve damage caused by diabetes.  It is one of the complications of diabetes that places its state to danger zone if left untreated.

Types of Diabetic Neuropathy

There are 3 types of diabetic neuropathy namely peripheral, autonomic and focal. By the nature of its symptoms, each type is being emphasized. Progressive state of blood sugar elevation in a long period of time without effective and maintained treatment causes the complication which is that of diabetic neuropathy. Accompanied by those conditions of high cholesterol level and lack of insulin, diabetic neuropathy is likely to occur. Another contributing factor is that of not correcting the unhealthy lifestyle like smoking, drinking alcoholic beverages and sedentary lifestyle.

The symptoms of diabetic neuropathy occur depending on the affected nerves.
In diabetic peripheral neuropathy, most common affected parts of the body are the feet and legs. Therefore, you may feel pain, muscle weakness, tingling and burning sensations. Numbness also occurs. In this case, a sufferer may not feel any sensation to hot and cold temperatures. Precautions take place especially when touching or landing on surfaces that may get you wounded. In this case, wounds do not normally heal and may lead to amputation of the affected part.

In diabetic autonomic neuropathy, most common affected parts are in the digestive system. Symptoms like bloating or feeling of fullness, diarrhea, constipation, nausea and vomiting usually occur. Other systems like vascular (blood vessels functioning), urinary and reproductive may also be affected. Patient may complain of fainting or blacking out when standing up too quickly due to low blood pressure. There is also an increase in heart rate. More to this, reproductive dysfunction occurs to male and female sex organs. In males, symptoms include reduced ejaculations and erectile dysfunction. Females may have decreased vaginal lubrication and orgasms or sometimes lack of orgasm. In diabetic focal neuropathy symptoms usually occur suddenly. Patient may feel pain and weakness in a single area of the body like wrist, thigh, or foot. Some may feel eye pain since nerves that control eye muscles are affected. Diabetic neuropathy is usually diagnosed depending on what type you have developed. Doctors check for the muscle strength and flexes. To confirm the diagnosis some tests like electromyogram and some conduction studies are performed. In electromyogram, the electrical charges made by the muscles are measured. In conduction studies, the activity of the electrical signal from the spinal cord to the muscle is measured.

When visiting a doctor it is important that you verbalize the clinical manifestations you presently experienced. Tests that will be performed depend on the physical symptoms you developed. So, it is important to regularly consult the doctor how you feel.
There has no known treatment for diabetic neuropathy but there are controlling measures. The most important is to keep blood sugar within a target range to help reduce symptoms. Patient should have regular blood sugar testing. There should also be lifestyle modification like following a prescribed diet, stop smoking, avoid drinking alcohol, and have an appropriate exercise as advised by the doctor. However, there are some medications for a specific symptom. If a patient is experiencing pain, there are pain relievers. For depression state, there are anti-depressants as prescribed by the doctor. For foot care, patient must have appropriate footwear, must clean feet daily and keep it dry. Patient should also visit a podiatrist. On top of it, you must have a regular check up with your physician for health advice.

If diabetic neuropathy is left untreated, complications might occur. When nerves are damaged, body systems will start to dysfunction. Known complications include loss of a limb or amputation, severe hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar level), low blood pressure, digestive problems, urinary infections and incontinence, and sexual dysfunctions.

Take note that in diabetic neuropathy there is a poor wound healing. If wounded, there is a high risk of getting infection since there is low oxygen in the blood.  Infections may cause gangrene (tissue death) to develop and may lead to amputation. You may have episodes of unawareness to hypoglycaemia wherein signs like increase heart rate, shakiness, cold and clammy skin occur. This is serious that it may lead to coma if uncontrolled. Low blood pressure results from uncontrolled circulation. You may feel sudden dizziness and fainting when standing too quickly. Digestive problems like nausea, vomiting and severe cases of diarrhea and constipation might occur. There will also be inability to feel when you urinate and possible urinary tract infections. Just like other system dysfunctions, autonomic neuropathy damages nerves that control male and female sex organs, thus leading to erectile dysfunction in men and problems with lubrication and arousal in women.