Everyone has heard of diabetes. But how much do you really know?

Diabetes or Diabetes Mellitus is a type of metabolic disorder characterized by prolonged periods of high blood sugar levels. Diabetes mellitus is a varied condition that damages many organ systems and affects approximately 415 million people worldwide.

Types Of Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes is of three main types:

Type I: This is also known as juvenile diabetes and is a result of insufficient insulin production by the pancreas.

Type II: Accounting for about 90% of all cases of diabetes, type II diabetes mellitus is defined by insulin resistance which means that insulin receptors on cells do not respond to insulin.

Gestational Diabetes : This is seen in pregnant women who do not have a prior diagnosis of diabetes. It is theorized that gestational diabetes is caused by hormonal changes during pregnancy.

What Is Neuropathy?

Neuropathy refers to a condition in which there is damage or disease affecting the nerves. Nerves control both movement and sensation, so depending on the type of nerve affected (motor, sensory, or mixed), there can be a number of varied signs and symptoms such as weakness, numbness, tingling sensation, etc.

It can affect a single nerve or many nervously simultaneously and it can be a chronic or acute condition.

How Is Neuropathy Related To Diabetes?

It may seem far-fetched that diabetes can affect nerves but this is one of the most common and most debilitating complications of diabetes.

It is theorized that diabetes causes damage to nerves by altering the function of the small blood vessels that supply the nerves. The excessively high levels of glucose in the blood are thought to cause damage to the covering of the nerves. This covering called the myelin sheath helps in the construction of impulses along the nerve cell and from one nerve cell to another.

Damage to the myelin sheath results in reduced or slowed conduct of impulses in the nerves which gives rise to the various symptoms of diabetic neuropathy.

It can affect any nerves: motor, sensory, or mixed. Usually, diabetic neuropathy first starts in the feet and then progresses to other regions of the body.

Signs And Symptoms Of Diabetic Neuropathy

Signs and symptoms depend on the particular nerves that are affected, their location, and their functions.

Common symptoms are:

– Numbness, especially in the extremities (hands and feet)

– Tingling sensations

– Burning or freezing sensations

– Shooting pain

– Loss of muscle mass and tone in the small muscles of the hands and feet

– Imbalance

– Random muscle contractions

– Dizziness

– Increased sweating

– Urinary problems

– Sexual dysfunction

How Is Diabetic Neuropathy Diagnosed?

It is diagnosed by a doctor based on physical examination, patient reporting of symptoms, and physiological tests such as a nerve conduction test.

Nerve conductions tests are a type of neurophysiological testing that involves passing small amounts of current through major peripheral nerves to access their function.

Treatment For Diabetic Neuropathy

The primary treatment is regaining and maintaining control of blood glucose levels. Treatment of diabetic neuropathy aims to prevent further nerve damage, restore as much nerve function as possible, and relive the signs and symptoms associated with this condition.

Regular monitoring of blood sugar levels, maintaining a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and taking the appropriate medications are vital to controlling diabetes and diabetic neuropathy.

You may also be given medications to help you cope with the pain of diabetic neuropathy, as well as medications to encourage nerve and myelin sheath repair.

It is important to be vigilant and proactive about foot care. Anyone with diabetes or diabetic neuropathy should routinely examine their feet for any wounds or injuries. Early detection and treatment of foot problems in people with diabetes can prevent life-altering and devastating consequences.

It is an often serious and painful condition that can affect anyone with diabetes and can affect any nerve in the body. To prevent or reduce your chances of developing diabetic neuropathy, it is essential to keep your diabetes under control and your blood sugar levels stable and within the normal range. The prognosis of treatment depends heavily on control of underlying diabetes.

With advances in modern medicine and on-going clinical trials, we are moving closer towards normal treatments and maybe even a permanent solution for diabetic neuropathy .