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What You Should Know About Painful Diabetic Neuropathy

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Diabetes is an epidemic, not just in the United States but worldwide. It is one of the most costly and debilitating complications associated with the condition. One of the consequences of diabeties can be ‘diabetic neuropathy’. This blog post aims to outline the condition and answer some common questions about it.

What is diabetic neuropathy?

Diabetic neuropathy is a type of nerve damage that results from uncontrolled diabetes. High blood sugar levels injure the body's nerves, often in the hands, legs, and feet. 

Diabetic neuropathy can be very painful as it affects the nerves of the body, but patients also usually experience numbness as an associated complication. Sometimes symptoms are mild, while for others, it can be disabling.

Diabetic neuropathy is so common in patients with the condition that it affects approximately 50% of patients with diabetes. The good news is not only can it be prevented, but there are also steps you can take to slow its progression. 

What are the Types of Diabetic Neuropathy? 

Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy will affect the feet and legs first, then the hands and arms. Usually, symptoms are worse at night. Some of the symptoms patients notice include:

  • Numbness, tingling, or a burning sensation
  • A reduced ability to feel temperature changes
  • Sharp pains or cramping
  • Muscle weakness
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Ulcers or infections in the feet. 

Autonomic neuropathy

Diabetes can affect the autonomic nervous system. This system controls blood pressure, heart rate, the digestive system, and sex organs. Symptoms to look for include:

  • Orthostatic hypotension- a drop in blood pressure when going from lying to sitting to rising. Patients may feel dizzy or faint
  • Bowel and bladder problems
  • Gastroparesis- a slowing of the stomach emptying which can cause nausea, vomiting, a sensation of fullness with a decrease in appetite
  • Sexual concerns such as vaginal dryness or erectile dysfunction in men

Proximal Neuropathy

Proximal neuropathy affects the thighs, hips, buttocks, or legs. Sometimes it can affect the abdomen or chest. Symptoms usually are experienced on one side of the body but can spread to the other. Signs of proximal neuropathy can include:

  • Severe pain in the buttocks, hip, or thighs
  • Muscle wasting, particularly in the thigh muscles
  • Difficulty rising from a sitting position
  • Chest of abdominal wall pain

Mononeuropathy

Mononeuropathy is where there is damage to a specific nerve in the face, torso, arm, or leg. Symptoms can include: 

  • Double vision
  • Paralysis on one side of the face
  • Weakness in the hands
  • Numbness and tingling 
  • Shooting pain in the shin or foot
  • Foot drop where it makes it difficult to lift the front part of the foot
  • Pain in the thighs

How Can You Prevent Diabetic Neuropathy?

The key to preventing diabetic neuropathy is controlling your blood sugar levels. High blood sugar levels cause damage to the nerves that cause diabetic neuropathy. 

Take insulin and oral diabetic medication as scheduled. Make sure to monitor your blood glucose levels regularly. If blood glucose levels can remain below-recommended levels, you can prevent neuropathy in most cases. 

Other steps you can take include following a proper diet and exercise recommendations. Limit carbohydrates and sugary drinks. Exercise improves blood flow to the nerves, so strive to get in about 30 minutes of activity at least five days per week. 

Also, avoid smoking and drinking alcohol. Nicotine and alcohol can both damage the nerves. Nicotine is harmful to both the nerves and small blood vessels and has been linked to chronic ulcers in the limbs. High alcohol consumption can lead to vitamin deficiencies that can impact nerve health. 

How do You Treat Diabetic Neuropathy? 

Once you have diabetic neuropathy, there is no known cure. The goal is to slow progression, manage pain, address complications, and restore functioning. 

It is essential to monitor glucose levels and keep them in the optimal range to slow progression. Also, continue to take all diabetic medication as directed. 

Some anti-seizure medications and anti-depressants can help to manage pain, numbness, and tingling. These may be taken alone or combined depending upon your specific needs. Some patients find relief with over-the-counter pain medication or lidocaine numbing patches. 

Always discuss your options with a pain management physician for the best treatment plan to address your diabetic neuropathy. 

Best Pain Management in South Florida

Where Can I find the Best Pain Management in South Florida

At Pain Care Specialists of Florida, we specialize in treating various pain conditions with experience, compassion, and individualized attention. If you are experiencing symptoms of diabetic neuropathy, we can help! Don’t hesitate to contact our pain management specialists, Dr. Luis Escobar and Dr. Lucien Alexandre. 

Our two doctors are the leading providers of interventional pain management in Florida. They utilize an interdisciplinary approach in treating the source of your pain to get you back on track and improve your quality of life. 

We have two convenient locations to serve your needs:  

Connect with us! We look forward to helping to address your pain so you can move forward in enjoying what you love in life. 

The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.

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