Diabetic Neuropathy

Diabetic neuropathy is a type of nerve damage associated with diabetes. It results in damage to the nerves in a person’s feet, legs, and eyes, and to the nerves that control bodily functions, such as digestion, blood pressure, and heart rate. Diabetic neuropathy can lead to serious complications, including ulcers , infection, and limb loss.

  • Causes


    Researchers believe that diabetic neuropathy is likely caused by a combination of factors, including:

    • Metabolic problems
      (eg, high blood glucose)
    • Damage to blood vessels
    • Autoimmune factors
    • Genetics

  • Definition


    Diabetic neuropathy is a type of nerve damage associated with diabetes. It results in damage to the nerves in a person’s feet, legs, and eyes, and to the nerves that control bodily functions, such as digestion, blood pressure, and heart rate. Diabetic neuropathy can lead to serious complications, including
    ulcers
    , infection, and limb loss.

    Nerves of the Foot
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  • Diagnosis


    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. They will also do a physical exam. Other tests may include:

    • Foot exam—to assess sensation in the foot
    • Nerve conduction studies
      —to test nerve activity
    • Electromyography
      —to determine how muscles respond to nerve signals
    • Quantitative sensory testing—the use of stimuli (eg, vibration) to check for neuropathy
    • Quantitative sudomotor axon reflex test—a test to evaluate the nerve supply of sweat glands
    • Heart rate tests—to determine how the heart responds to changes
    • Ultrasound—to view internal organs
    • Biopsy
      —to remove a sample of nerve or skin tissue for examination

  • Prevention

    The best way to prevent diabetic neuropathy is to regularly monitor and manage your blood glucose levels. Your doctor can instruct you about how often to check your levels and what the numbers mean.

  • Risk Factors


    The following factors are thought to increase the risk of diabetic neuropathy:

    • Older age

    • Having
      diabetes
      for 25 years or more

    • Having
      type 2 diabetes
    • High blood pressure
    • Lifestyle factors (eg,
      smoking,
      alcohol use)
    • Obesity
    • Lack of exercise
    • Peripheral vascular disease
    • High cholesterol

  • Symptoms


    Symptoms of diabetic neuropathy may include:

    • Numbness in the extremities
    • Tingling in the extremities
    • Pain in the extremities
    • Wasting of the muscles of the feet or hands
    • Indigestion
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Diarrhea
      or
      constipation
    • Dizziness or fainting
    • Urination problems
    • Impotence
      or vaginal dryness
    • Weakness in arms and or legs
    • Foot drop
    • Weakness of facial muscles resulting in drooping eyelid, drooping mouth, facial droop, difficulty swallowing
    • Muscle cramps
    • A prolonged feeling of fullness after eating, and/or abdominal pain
    • Heat intolerance due to a decreased ability to sweat normally


    If you have diabetic neuropathy, you are at increased risk for developing other types of neuropathies, such as
    carpal tunnel syndrome
    .

  • Treatment

    Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include: