Diabetic peripheral neuropathy
What is diabetic peripheral neuropathy?
Diabetic peripheral neuropathy is a disorder involving the peripheral nervous system (PNS). The central nervous system (CNS) includes your brain and spinal cord, and the PNS includes all of the nerves that come from your spinal cord and innervate the rest of your body. When your peripheral nerves become damaged, they do not function properly and can eventually produce symptoms such as pain, tingling, or numbness.
What causes diabetic peripheral neuropathy?
Peripheral neuropathy can be caused by many conditions including vitamin deficiencies, alcoholism, autoimmune diseases, certain medications, diabetes, and unknown causes.
Diabetic peripheral neuropathy can be difficult to diagnose. A thorough neurological and physical exam as well as a thorough history are pertinent. Certain lab tests may be ordered by your physician in order to rule out other potential causes of peripheral neuropathy, such as a vitamin B12 deficiency. Nerve conduction studies as well as an electromyography (EMG) may also help your physician make a diagnosis.
For those suffering from diabetic peripheral neuropathy, your feet and legs may be affected first, followed by your arms and hands. Symptoms may also be worse at night, and may include:
- Numbness or reduced ability to feel pain or temperature changes
- A tingling or burning sensation
- Sharp pains or cramps
- Increased sensitivity to touch
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of reflexes, especially in the ankle
- Loss of balance and coordination
- Serious foot problems, such as ulcers, infections, deformities, and bone and joint pain
- Acupuncture: Harvard Medical conducted a study that stated that traditional Chinese acupuncture improved nerve sensation in diabetic peripheral neuropathy (Ahn 2007).
- Biofeedback: Studies on the psychological assessment and treatment of neuropathic pain conditions, including diabetic peripheral neuropathy, showed that cognitive-behavioral interventions will improve the quality of life in these patients (Haythornthwaite 2001).
- Nutrient and vitamin supplements: Certain nutritional supplements have been implicated in helping to treat and prevent neuropathies. Working closely with a nutritionist or physician, you can come up with a diet or supplements that may benefit your neuropathy.
The goal of treatment is to control the blood sugar level that is causing your neuropathy and provide symptom relief. There are no quick fixes for diabetic peripheral neuropathy, so your physician may recommend several different things until you find which is most effective for you.