Pins, Needles, and More
With more than 21 millions of Americans suffering from diabetes, about 10% will also get some form of nerve damage, while a whopping 30% of those over the age of 40 will develop diabetic neuropathy. The longer a person has been diabetic, the greater the risk of acquiring diabetic neuropathy. Such nerve damage can manifest itself anywhere in the body, including sex organs, the digestive system, or even the heart.
Diabetic neuropathy is nerve damage that is often described as a numbness that slowly works its way up the legs, beginning at the points of the toes. The hands, feet, and numerous sites in the body can be affected. Many people also complain of a tingling in the arms, hands, feet or legs as well as a burning pain and shooting hot and cold sensations. Aside from the typical symptoms described above, lesser known symptoms include muscular wasting of feet and hands, diarrhea or constipation, dizziness due to blood pressure going low, problems with urination, erectile dysfunction in men and vaginal dryness in women
It is helpful to know that here are in fact three kinds of nerves: motor, sensory and autonomic. Motor nerves control the muscles and enable motion.
Sensory nerves enable individuals to sense feeling of touch, temperatures as well as pain. Autonomic nerves function automatically, that is they don’t require any conscious effort on our part to control certain bodily functions such as digestion, perspiration and regular breathing. Sensory nerves are usually the first to become affected during diabetic neuropathy, although the disease eventually affects all of these nerve groups.
The precise cause of diabetic neuropathy isn't clearly understood. One theory states that diabetics are very susceptible to nerve compression caused by unusual glucose metabolism within peripheral nerves. This causes the nerves to swell as the surrounding tissues press on them, leading to a reduction in their function.
4 Types of Diabetic Neuropathy
While peripheral neuropathy is the most common and initially comes to mind, three other types exist. First, focal neuropathy involves sudden weakness in specific nerves that results in muscular pain or weakness. Next, proximal neuropathy affects the nerves in the thighs, buttocks, and hips and eventually causes leg weakness. Lastly, autonomic neuropathy is possibly the most damaging as it targets the "automatic" function of internal organs such as the bowel, bladder, lungs, and eyes
Treatment of Diabetic Neuropathy
Keeping the glucose levels within a healthy range is the most essential tool in preventing and treating peripheral neuropathy. However, despite such tight management, most (about 70-80%) diabetics will still develop some degree of neuropathy. Exercising for 30 minutes each day together with a healthy diet will help increase circulation and stimulate the development of new blood vessels, which may slow or even stop disease progression.
For those people with painful diabetic neuropathy, prescription drugs such as desipiramine and amitriptyline can be helpful in relieving the pain that peripheral neuropathy can cause. Other interesting therapies gaining popularity include infrared therapy that uses light energy to raise the circulation to the little vessels in the feet, nerve decompression using modern surgical or chiropractic techniques as well as a wide range of alternative treatments including the use of cayenne pepper and gamma linolenic acid – the latter which is found in evening primrose oil.
Disclaimer: The information contained herein is for educational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Please consult your medical professional for medical advice and treatment of diabetes or any other medical condition.