Fast Facts on Diabetic Neuropathy

Diabetes can damage your nerves over time and lead to their deterioration and eventual death.  Burning and tingling sensations are warning signs that your nerves are having a difficult time carrying messages from your brain to parts of the body.  These sensations will eventually stop, but this occurs once the nerves stop functioning.  The nerve damage is called diabetic neuropathy.  Luckily, this process can be delay or even prevented by taking control of your diabetes.  Here are some important facts.


  1. 1. Nerve damage is common among diabetics.

About half of the people with diabetes develop some type of neuropathy.  This is because over time, high blood glucose levels will injure small blood vessels and nerves.  The excess glucose damages the walls of small blood vessels preventing them from supplying nourishment to nerves.


  1. 2. Certain things increase your risk for nerve damage.

Diabetes and high blood glucose levels increase your risk of developing neuropathy.  Smoking, high blood cholesterol and high blood pressure also increase your risk.  Alcohol use and being overweight are other risks to develop neuropathy.


  1. 3. Symptoms may be unnoticed.

Symptoms of neuropathy include pain, burning or tingling sensations, and loss of feeling.  These symptoms typically start in the tips of fingers or toes, as this is where the smallest nerves and blood vessels are found.


  1. 4. Neuropathy is diagnosed with an exam.

Along with your symptoms, a physical exam is used to diagnose neuropathy.  Your podiatrist may test your feet to see how well you sense touch, vibration, and temperature.  Nerve conduction studies can provide useful information as to the ability of your nerves to transmit signals.


  1. 5. Glucose control is the best prevention and treatment.

The most important method to improve blood glucose is to prevent further nerve damage.  Good glucose control protects your nerves.  In addition to daily blood glucose checks, follow a healthy eating and exercise plan.  Talk with your doctor if you are having trouble managing your blood glucose, as many medications exist to assist.


  1. 6. Daily foot care is essential.

Neuropathy often starts in the feet.  If you have lost feeling in your feet, you can develop an unknown injury.  Untreated problems can quickly lead to infection and amputation.  Check your feet every day for sore, hot, cold, numb, or dry spots.  Look for bumps, cuts, sores, and swelling as well.  If you notice any irregularities, make sure to tell your podiatrist.  A yearly thorough foot exam by a podiatrist is recommended to monitor your diabetes.  Tell your doctor right away, if you have symptoms of neuropathy as early treatment may prevent further damage.