Understanding Neuropathy

Categories: Wellness

Nerve damage or diabetic neuropathy affects up to 70% of people with diabetes.  It often comes from not controlling blood glucose levels.  Weight loss and depression are not related to neuropathy – but often accompany it, and the incidence of neuropathy increases as time goes on.  Those who have lived with diabetes for over 25 years are more likely to have some neuropathy, though symptoms may not yet be present.

How does neuropathy come about?

People with high blood pressure and high cholesterol are at higher risk for developing neuropathy, presumably due to blood vessel damage and resulting poor blood circulation that deprives nerves of oxygen.  So that is to say cardiovascular issues may be one part, and lifestyle factors such as smoking or alcohol use, may also be a cause of nerve damage.

What areas are affected?

The peripheral nerves of the arms, hands, legs, and feet (known as peripheral neuropathy) are most commonly affected but the neuropathies can also impact organ system function (autonomic neuropathy) and proximal neuropathies (pain in the thighs, hips, or buttocks).

Can a single nerve be affected?

Yes, and it can result in weakness and/or pain in a focused area.

What are the symptoms of neuropathy

The primary symptoms of all neuropathies except autonomic are tingling, numbness, and/or pain in the affected area. Other symptoms of nerve damage may include indigestion, nausea, or vomiting; diarrhea or constipation; dizziness or faintness due to a drop in blood pressure after standing or sitting up; problems with urination and weakness. Doctors generally diagnose neuropathy on the basis of symptoms and a physical exam, which may include checking blood pressure, heart rate, reflexes, muscle strength, and sensitivity to vibration, light touch, temperature, or position changes.

How can I prevent neuropathy

The best way to prevent neuropathy is to maintain safe blood glucose levels, which will protect the nerves throughout the body.  This means, keep testing and maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine.

By: DiabeticCare editorial team; Published: 10-17-2013, 10:00 AM

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