An estimated 60 to 70 percent of people with diabetes are likely to develop some form of diabetic neuropathy. These estimates are made by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Neuropathy is a damage to the nerves caused by chronic high blood sugar and diabetes. Our body uses nerves for transmission of messages between the brain and other parts of the body. Because the nerves are damaged, neuropathy often leads to loss of sensation and pain in the legs, hands or feet.
What Causes Diabetic Neuropathy?
There is no conclusive evidence about what causes neuropathy in diabetics. However, researchers agree that there is a connection between the blood glucose levels and diabetic neuropathy. In all likelihood, the higher blood glucose levels, experienced by diabetics, damage blood vessels associated with the nerves. This results in lower supply of oxygen and nutrients to the nerves, resulting in their damage. Other contributing factors include age (older diabetics are more likely to get diabetic neuropathy), certain antidiabetic drugs, an unhealthy lifestyle, inherited traits, autoimmune factors and nerve injuries.
Types of Diabetic Neuropathy
- Peripheral Neuropathy is the most common type, causing pain or numbness in the toes, feet, legs, arms and fingers.
- Autonomic Neuropathy affects the digestive system, bowel and bladder functions, and organs such as heart, lungs, and eyes.
- Proximal Neuropathy results in pain in the lower part of the body and affects the legs.
- Focal Neuropathy weakens a single nerve or a bunch of nerves and causes muscular pain.
How to Diagnose Diabetes Neuropathy?
Most experts recommend diabetics (especially those with type 2 diabetes) to undergo a foot examination on a regular basis, to check for peripheral neuropathy. A check in heart rate variability, ultrasound examinations, and nerve conduction examinations are other methods used to diagnose diabetes neuropathy.
Treating Diabetic Neuropathy
The best way to treat and lower the risk of diabetic neuropathy is to control blood sugar levels with the right diet. Check out our detailed article on the treatment of diabetic neuropathy.