Diabetic Foot Care: Peripheral Neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy, sometimes known as diabetic neuropathy, consists of damage to the peripheral nerves. More than half of individuals with diabetes will develop some type of neuropathy, especially if their sugars are not well controlled. Fortunately, with active care and treatments, the symptom of peripheral neuropathy can be well managed.
What causes peripheral neuropathy?
In general, peripheral neuropathy is damage to the peripheral nerves. While diabetes is the most common cause, the condition can also be caused by metabolic problems, injuries, infections, repetitive motions, and other inherited causes.
What are the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy?
Peripheral neuropathy causes numbness, weakness, and pain. The pain that you experience is typically a stabbing or burning pain, and sometimes tingling is experienced as well. The pain is usually felt in the hands and feet, but can surface in other areas of the body.
Peripheral neuropathy can affect different nerves in your body, ranging from one nerve to many. The exact symptoms you feel can depend on the affected nerves. For example, you might experience muscle weakness if your motor nerves are affected, and heat intolerance, digestive problems, and lightheadedness if your autonomic nerves are affected. Other symptoms of peripheral neuropathy include lack of coordination and sensitivity to touch.
How is peripheral neuropathy treated?
Treatment begins with diagnosis to be sure of the condition you are suffering from. Your doctor may perform a neurological exam, check your muscle strength and ability to feel sensations, and perform imaging tests or nerve function tests.
Medications and specialty creams may be used to relieve nerve pain. Antidepressants and electric nerve stimulation are sometimes used in treatment for peripheral neuropathy as well. For some patients, physical therapy helps to improve range of motion and coordination. In some cases, surgery to reduce pressure is necessary.
You can help improve your condition at home by making healthy lifestyle choices, like exercising, eating healthy foods, and avoiding tobacco and alcohol.
If you are diabetic, it is important to check your feet daily for blisters or calluses and to wear loose cotton socks and padded shoes. Be sure to monitor your blood sugar levels closely to avoid complications.