- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
Neuropathy in Feet and Other Diabetes Complications
Diabetes can cause a variety of physical ailments known as complications of diabetes. Neuropathy is nerve damage that can be caused by high blood sugar levels. Neuropathy in feet can cause pain, tingling, numbness, or burning sensations. In addition to neuropathy in feet, other common diabetes complications include reduced blood circulation, hearing loss, glaucoma, and cataracts.
When blood glucose levels are controlled, the risk of diabetes complications is reduced. Therefore, the best way to prevent health problems related to diabetes is to keep blood sugar levels within a healthy range. If blood glucose levels are not being controlled effectively, the diabetic person should consult the doctor about ways to maintain healthy levels such as changes to the diabetic diet or prescription medication.
Though neuropathy commonly affects the feet, this condition can cause nerve impairment in any part of the body. If neuropathy affects the stomach, it causes gastroparesis. The gastroparesis causes food to take longer to digest which interferes with the ability to control blood sugar levels. Gastroparesis can cause digestive upset or obstruction of the small intestine. In severe cases, the person may need to use a feeding tube.
Changes in eyesight can occur as a result of diabetes. Glaucoma and cataracts can be diabetes complications. Diabetes can cause damage to the vessels of the retina which is called diabetic retinopathy. These eye complications sometimes are referred to collectively as diabetic eye disease. These conditions can be severe enough to impede vision or even lead to blindness.
Diabetic foot pain or tingling can be signs of foot neuropathy. Neuropathy of the feet often inhibits the person's ability to feel pain. The person may develop a sore on the foot and not notice it until it becomes infected. This is especially problematic for diabetics since sores on diabetic feet are prone to infection and gangrene. If the sore won't heal and becomes gangrene, an amputation may be necessary.
Diabetes increases the risk of stroke and heart disease. Physicians may assess the patient's risk of stroke and heart attacks to determine what precautions should be taken. The physician may help the patient reduce the risk of these life-threatening conditions with dietary restrictions, exercise, and prescribed medication. The patient may be encouraged to lose weight if the person is overweight in order to help lower the risks.
In order to avoid complications with diabetic feet and other problems, the person should work with the doctor and dietician to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. If the person notices any sores on the feet or signs of other diabetes complications like tingling or numbness which can be signs of neuropathy in feet, the patient promptly should notify the physician about these changes. Immediate medical attention reduces the risk of the diabetes complication becoming severe.
Diabetic Neuropathy Treatment
Controlling blood sugar levels helps prevent the nerve damage from becoming worse. The treatment depends on the part of the body being affected by the nerve damage and the patient's symptoms. If the nerve damage is causing any pain, the doctor may prescribe a pain reliever in pill or cream form. Physical therapy may be one of the diabetic neuropathy treatment options. In some cases, pulses of electricity are administered to the nerves to reduce pain. This treatment is called transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation.
Because the nerve damage may make sores difficult to detect, the patient may be told to inspect their diabetic feet at least once a day for any sores or other problems. If the person has difficulty inspecting every part of their feet, the doctor may suggest having a loved one help them check their feet.