What Is Diabetic Neuropathy?

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  • Diabetic neuropathy is usually triggered by damage to nerves and blood vessels, as prolonged exposure to high blood sugar may damage delicate nerve fibers
  • There are five known factors that can make you more susceptible to nerve damage: poor blood sugar control, length of time you have diabetes, existing kidney disease, being overweight and smoking

Did you know that diabetes can lead to nerve damage in the long run? This occurs when someone develops diabetic neuropathy, which refers to a family of nerve disorders prevalent among people with diabetes. It occurs when high blood sugar or glucose levels injure nerve fibers throughout the body.1,2

Diabetic neuropathy often damages nerves in the legs and feet, although problems can still occur in every organ system, including the digestive tract, heart and sex organs. There are four known classifications of diabetic neuropathy: peripheral, autonomic, proximal and focal. These conditions affect the body in different ways.

The Causes and Risk Factors of Diabetic Neuropathy

Diabetic neuropathy is usually triggered by damage to nerves and blood vessels, as prolonged exposure to high blood sugar may damage delicate nerve fibers. Although the reason for this occurrence isn't completely clear, various factors may play a role, such as interaction between nerves and blood vessels.

High blood sugar levels tend to interfere with the nerves' ability to transmit signals and weaken the capillaries (walls of the small blood vessels) that provide the nerves with oxygen and nutrients. Meanwhile, other factors that can lead to the onset of diabetic neuropathy include:3

Inflammation in the nerves caused by an autoimmune response

Mechanical injury to nerves, such as carpal tunnel syndrome4

Genetic factors unrelated to diabetes that may make some people more susceptible to nerve damage

Excessive smoking and alcohol intake

Anyone with diabetes may develop diabetic neuropathy, as around 50 percent of diabetes patients have this condition.5 There are five known factors that can make you more susceptible to nerve damage: poor blood sugar control, length of time you have diabetes, existing kidney disease, being overweight, and smoking.6

How Is Diabetic Neuropathy Checked?

There are three factors involved in diagnosing diabetic neuropathy: symptoms, medical history and a physical exam. The exam involves the doctor checking your muscle strength and tone, tendon reflexes and sensitivity to touch, temperature and vibration. Some doctors can also conduct tests that include the following:7

Filament test

Nerve conduction studies

Electromyography (EMG)

Quantitative sensory testing

Autonomic testing

The American Diabetes Association suggests that if you have diabetes, you must undergo a comprehensive foot exam performed by a doctor or a podiatrist (a foot specialist) at least once a year. Your feet must also be checked for sores, cracked skin, calluses, blisters and bone and joint abnormalities at every office visit.

Learn More About Diabetic Neuropathy Through These Pages

Because of diabetic neuropathy’s potential effects on the nerves, which are one of the most important parts of your body, it’s essential that you or someone you know who is a diabetic must be informed on possible solutions for this condition. These next few pages will provide you with more information regarding diabetic neuropathy concerning its types, symptoms and ideal treatment protocols.

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