Peripheral neuropathy occurs when there is damage to the nerves located outside of the brain and spinal cord (peripheral nerves). While traumatic injuries, infections, and metabolic problems can cause it, diabetes is the leading reason. Diabetic peripheral neuropathy is one of the many complications of diabetes. Read on to learn more about it.
Your peripheral nervous system is like a communications center. It sends information from your brain and spinal cord (central nervous system) to the rest of your body. The peripheral nerves send sensory information to the central nervous system.
High blood glucose levels from diabetes can lead to nerve damage. Not only does this damage the small blood vessels, but it also prevents the vital oxygen and nutrients from reaching the nerves. Without this, your nerves cannot function well.
Peripheral neuropathy can affect the nerves in the hands, feet, legs, and arms. It generally starts in the feet, and it tends to start in both feet at once. The American Diabetes Association lists the following signs and symptoms, which include:
o My feet tingle.
o I feel "pins and needles" in my feet.
· Pain or increased sensitivity
o I have burning, stabbing, or shooting pains in my feet.
o My feet are very sensitive to touch. For example, sometimes it hurts to have the bed covers touch my feet.
o Sometimes I feel like I have socks or gloves on when I don't.
o My feet hurt at night.
o My feet and hands get very cold or very hot.
· Numbness or weakness
o My feet are numb and feel dead.
o I don't feel pain in my feet, even when I have blisters or injuries.
o I can't feel my feet when I'm walking.
o The muscles in my feet and legs are weak.
o I'm unsteady when I stand or walk.
o I have trouble feeling heat or cold in my feet or hands.
o It seems like the muscles and bones in my feet have changed shape.
o I have open sores (also called ulcers) on my feet and legs. These sores heal very slowly.
Numbness and weakness in the hands and feet can make you more susceptible to falls and sustaining an injury and not knowing it, leading to infection.
About half of individuals living with diabetes develop peripheral neuropathy. However, keeping blood glucose levels in your target range will help delay or prevent it from developing and reduce complications for those who already have it. Other healthy habits to support your nerve health include:
· Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein to keep nerves healthy.
· Exercise regularly at least 30-60 minutes 3 days per week
· Avoid factors that may cause nerve damage:
o Repetitive motions
o Cramped positions that put pressure on nerves
o Exposure to toxic chemicals
o Overindulging in alcohol
If you are living with diabetes and have been diagnosed with diabetic peripheral neuropathy, clinical research studies may be an option. To learn more, contact Rainier Clinical Research Center toll-free at (888)478-8343, or visit our website today!
Read our blog on practical tips for navigating the obstacles of diabetes burnout.