Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects many people worldwide. One of its major complications is diabetic peripheral neuropathy, which is nerve damage that occurs as a result of diabetes. This condition particularly affects the arms, hands, legs, and feet, and it develops gradually over time.
The nerves in the body can be classified into three groups: sensory nerves that enable people to feel pain, temperature, and other sensations; motor nerves that help to control the muscles and give them strength and tone; and autonomic nerves that enable the body to perform involuntary functions such as sweating.
The development of diabetic peripheral neuropathy may take a while, and many patients will have the condition before being diagnosed with diabetes. One should note that diabetic neuropathy can lead to ulcers, infections, and even the loss of a foot or leg in severe cases.
Poorly managed diabetes is among the leading causes of diabetic peripheral neuropathy. However, research shows that even diabetic patients with excellent blood sugar control are at risk of developing diabetic neuropathy. Several theories exist as to why this occurs, including constricted blood vessels producing damage to the nerves.
One of the significant complications that arise from diabetic peripheral neuropathy is ulcers and other sores. Deformities like bunions and hammertoes resulting from motor neuropathy can cause shoes to rub against toes, creating a sore. The numbness resulting from sensory neuropathy can make it even worse as the patient will be unaware of the situation. The autonomic neuropathy that causes cracked skin, combined with sensory neuropathy’s numbness and motor neuropathy, can also cause a sore.
The symptoms of diabetic peripheral neuropathy depend on the type of nerves involved. For sensory neuropathy, numbness or tingling sensations in the feet and pain or discomfort, including sharp and burning feet, may be present. For motor neuropathy, muscle weakness and loss of muscle tone, loss of balance, and changes in the foot’s shape that can lead to areas of increased pressure may be present. Autonomic neuropathy may present dry and cracked feet, among other symptoms.
A foot and ankle surgeon will diagnose diabetic peripheral neuropathy by obtaining the patient’s history of symptoms and conducting simple in-office tests on the feet and legs. This evaluation may include testing the patient’s reflexes, ability to feel light touch and vibration, and other neurologic tests if applicable.
The treatment of diabetic peripheral neuropathy is centered around controlling the patient’s blood sugar level. Additionally, various medications help relieve specific symptoms like tingling or burning. In some cases, physical therapy may be necessary to alleviate balance-related problems or other symptoms.
Patients can help prevent diabetic peripheral neuropathy by keeping their blood sugar levels under control and wearing well-fitting shoes to prevent getting sores. Patients must inspect their feet every day and see their foot and ankle surgeon as soon as they notice any cuts, redness, blisters, or swelling. Regular visits to the surgeon can help prevent foot complications related to diabetes.
In conclusion, diabetic peripheral neuropathy is a severe condition that can lead to several complications if not managed correctly. Dr. Gilbert Huang DPM may be contacted for professional advice and treatment of diabetic peripheral neuropathy. To prevent the risk of developing diabetic neuropathy and its associated complications, patients must keep their sugar levels under control, wear well-fitting shoes, inspect their feet daily, and regularly visit their surgeons for check-ups.