Diabetes is a disease characterized by high blood sugar concentrations. Diabetic neuropathy, or nerve disease, is a condition commonly seen in diabetic patients. This condition results in nerve damage secondary to chronically high levels of sugar in the patient's blood.
Hyperglycemia, the root cause of diabetic neuropathy, results when a patient has a high level of sugar in their blood. This disease process is damaging to nerves in the body especially the nerves in the extremities, such as feet and hands. Diabetic patients often remain in hyperglycemic states due to:
- Not following a strict diabetic diet
- Lack of exercise
- Failure to monitor blood sugar levels
- Not taking appropriate medications. In this case, it is important for the patient to see their family physician or endocrinologist for proper adjustments of medications.
Neuropathy symptoms may not be present until several years after diabetes is first diagnosed.
Numbness and tingling in the feet and legs are the most common symptoms of diabetic neuropathy. This is usually a process that occurs equally in both feet and eventually progresses to a complete loss of feeling. Patients may also experience symptoms of a painful neuropathy commonly as a burning, sharp or electrical shock-like pain.
Motor nerves, the nerves that control muscles, may also be damaged as the disease gets worse. This type of nerve damage can lead to deformity and contracture in the foot, which can result in prominent bones, leading to the development of wounds.
Other symptoms manifest in multiple body systems. This results in significant slowing to the digestive system as well as neurogenic impotence in men. Autonomic dysfunction can also lead to decreased blood flow, which may explain the process of developing a charcot type foot. A charcot foot may result in collapse of the bones, leading to significant foot deformity and very high rates of infection and even
The best treatment and prevention for diabetic neuropathy is tight control of blood sugar levels. All diabetics should be seen regularly by a medical doctor for proper management of their blood glucose levels. Daily exercise and a strict diabetic diet also play a large role in controlling blood sugar levels.
Medication options to help control symptoms secondary to diabetic neuropathy do exist. Common medications used include:
- Opioids (narcotics)
These medications have somewhat unpredictable success in patients. Some patients will do very well on these medications while others might receive little relief of symptoms. Other patients may respond favorably, but without complete relief of symptoms. As with any medications, side effects may occur. Sedation tends to be a common side effect with these classes of drugs.
This information on foot, leg and lower body health conditions is provided by The Podiatry Institute, dedicated to advancing the standard of care in podiatric medicine and its effects on musculoskeletal health. The Podiatry Institute does not endorse a specific treatment, product, or therapy. This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult your health care provider on all matters relating to this or any other condition that may affect your health.