FAQ’s on Diabetic and Peripheral Neuropathy
Diabetic and Peripheral Neuropathy is the damage to the peripheral nervous system caused by chronically high blood sugar levels. The damage caused by this condition can impede the ability of the nerves to function, normally manifesting as a feeling of numbness within the limbs.
It may also result in areas of the body losing sensation, and may lead to severe pain. Although this condition is normally caused by diabetes, not all diabetics will suffer from it. This condition can also result from an autoimmune response of the body that produces inflammation within a nerve. Studies show that about 60-70% of diabetics eventually develop some level of this condition.
Who are the candidates for Diabetic and Peripheral Neuropathy?
It’s common for long-term diabetics, or those who have been suffering for more than 25 years, to develop some level of Diabetic and Peripheral Neuropathy. Also at risk are diabetics who are overweight, cannot control their blood sugar, or who have high levels of blood fat in their system on a regular basis.
What causes Diabetic and Peripheral Neuropathy?
The main culprit of DPN is the elevated blood sugar which interferes with the nerve’s ability to send signals. It is not clear how this happens, but certain factors of diabetes have been identified that play a role in damaging the nerves.
Unhealthy lifestyle choices such as alcohol consumption and smoking, genetic predisposition to nerve disease, mechanical injury (e.g. carpal tunnel syndrome), metabolic factors (e.g. high blood sugar and blood fats), neurovascular and autoimmune factors can all potentially make a diabetic more susceptible to DPN.
What are the symptoms of Diabetic and Peripheral Neuropathy?
The most common symptom is numbness felt in a limb, which is troubling in itself. Patients who are suffering this form of Diabetic and Peripheral Neuropathy are the patients most likely to get ulcers on their feet, which may potentially need to be amputated in the future.
Early symptoms of neuropathy include sensations of tingling, prickling, pinching, deep stabs, a burning, sharp, or buzzing pain, and a pins and needle feeling. Some experience oversensitivity to touch.
Because of the nerve damage, patients may develop balance problems and muscle weakness. This means that they may have difficulty getting up or holding things, or may become unsteady or uncoordinated when walking. Patients may also develop foot issues such as ulcer and infection once they have lost feeling in the area and are not able to regularly check it.
What are the available treatments for Diabetic and Peripheral Neuropathy?
As this is caused by chronic high sugar levels, the first goal of treatment will be to bring the blood sugar level to normal. Once stable, patients are advised to keep their sugar under control to prevent further damage and lessen the symptoms.
Additional treatments may be given to address the symptoms if they re-appear, and medication may be prescribed to the patient when and if further symptoms appear. Lifestyle changes such as proper diet and exercise can go a long way in treating the symptoms.
The feet are the most vulnerable area, and so patients should take special care of them. They should be conscientious in cleaning their feet and making sure that they have no cuts or wounds that could potentially become infected. If the patient is a smoker, he or she should consult a doctor and ask for ways to quit as smoking greatly increases the risk of foot problems and consequently amputation. Thus, quitting is probably one of the most important changes a patient can make to help deal with Diabetic and Peripheral Neuropathy.
Additional treatment options may include:
- Pain medications – NSAIDS, Tylenol, opiates, Lyrica, Neurontin
- Laser Treatments
- Regional Nerve Blocks
- Tricyclic Therapy
- Nutritional Supplements
- Spinal Cord Stimulation
There really is not a cure for neuropathy, however, with effective treatment it can be stopped from getting worse. Most treatments at Dallas pain management clinics effectively provide relief.
As a last resort, spinal cord stimulator implants have been shown to offer exceptional pain relief and improve sensation that has been lost. A large study out of Indiana showed that pain scores dropped by an average of 7 points for diabetic neuropathy.
Also, 85% of the patients had improved sensation in their feet. Over 50% of the patients even had complete sensory return with the spinal cord implant!