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Can Diabetes Cause Numbness In The Feet?

INTRODUCTION

You may have often heard people exclaiming how becoming a diabetic caused multiple other health complications for them. This is entirely true, as even your feet cannot escape from the negative impacts of developing diabetes.

Diabetic neuropathy, or numbness in the feet, is just one such consequence of high blood sugar levels. High glucose levels can also cause severe damage to your nerves. The reason why diabetic patients often complain of no feeling in their feet and legs is diabetic neuropathy.

The severity or extent of the damage to your nerves, the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy include numbness and pain in your feet and legs. In addition, it can affect your urinary tract, heart, digestive system, and blood vessels.

Again, depending on the severity of the injuries the nerves suffer, every diabetic patient will experience varying symptoms. Some may be fortunate to experience only mild symptoms, while other diabetic neuropathy patients may suffer extreme disablement and painfulness.

DIABETIC NEUROPATHY

Numbness in the feet is the most common symptom of neuropathy and the most long-term complication of type-2 diabetes. It is not uncommon knowledge that poor control of blood sugar levels over a long period is the major cause of neuropathy.

The director of New York’s Clinical Diabetes Center in Albert Einstein’s College of Medicine, University hospital, emphasizes that allowing your blood sugar levels to remain high persistently for extended periods leaves you highly at risk of developing neuropathy.

Nerves that render themselves vulnerable to the harmful consequences of neuropathy are the longest in our body. They extend from our spine to the toes, so developing diabetes so severely affects our feet even before the hands and the arms.

Neuropathy is a bilateral condition that affects both of our feet equally and generally at the same time. As ugly as it sounds, but it is true that in the worst cases of diabetic neuropathy, you may not only experience numbness but also suffer pain often. Diabetic neuropathy may even deform your feet and distort the shape to the extent that you may not be able to fit into your regular shoes anymore.

This condition can also turn your skin dry, cause your feet to develop ulcers and blisters, and mess with your circulation. The result of numbness is the inability to feel a cut or an injury you may sustain, thus increasing the risks of infections and inevitably amputations.

Poor control of blood sugar levels can lead you into really difficult situations, such as amputations. If you look at the statistics, nearly 50% of diabetic patients have to undergo non-traumatic lower-limb amputations.

However, the good news is that if you proactively manage and control your diabetes, take splendid care of your feet, you can stay well away from the need for amputations. Good foot care in diabetes management means wearing appropriate diabetic shoes and diabetic socks, and others.

If you suffer from circulatory issues because of neuropathy, you must visit an endocrinologist or a podiatrist. It is beneficial for you to consult a diabetes specialist immediately if you fear you have developed neuropathy or notice any ulcers, pus, cracks, redness, or other infection signs on your feet.

DIABETIC NEUROPATHY: SYMPTOMS

You can suffer from one type or perhaps even more than one type of diabetic neuropathy. In total, there exist four types of diabetic neuropathy.  The symptoms you experience are dependent on the type of neuropathy you have and to what extent your nerves have suffered damaged.

In many cases, the symptoms take a lot of time to surface, and by the time the patient can take note of them, a considerable amount of damage has already occurred.

Let’s look at the four types of diabetic neuropathy briefly below:

AUTONOMIC NEUROPATHY

Your eyes, sex organs, intestines, stomach, bladder and heart, are under the control of the autonomic nervous system. As a result of diabetic neuropathy, your nerves in any of these areas can suffer damage. In such an event, you may have to face:

  • Shifts in the way your eyes adapt to darkness and light
  • Your stomach may empty slower than usual, often resulting in nausea, gastroparesis, loss of appetite and vomiting.
  • Bowel or bladder complications
  • Unawareness that your sugar blood sugar levels have gone down (unawareness of hypoglycemia)
  • Lack of ability to respond sexually

PERIPHERAL NEUROPATHY

We may also refer to peripheral neuropathy as distal symmetric neuropathy. This neuropathy is the most common among diabetic patients and is the one that affects the feet and legs even before it can impact the arms and hands.

In peripheral neuropathy, the symptoms worsen in the night and may cause:

  • A burning or tingling sensation
  • Numbness or reduces your ability to feel temperature or pain changes
  • Serious feet complications such as joint pain, hone pain, infections and ulcers
  • Increases your touch sensitivity- in this case, you also be unable to bear the pain of a bedsheet on you
  • Piercing cramps or pains

MONONEUROPATHY (FOCAL NEUROPATHY)

Peripheral and cranial are the two kinds of mononeuropathy. This condition involves damage only to a particular nerve but may also lead to the following conditions:

  • Your hands may turn weak to the extent that things start slipping out of your grip
  • Your fingers and hand may turn numb or only feel a slight tingle- the only exception remains the pinkie finger here
  • Bell’s palsy or partial paralysis of your face-only one side
  • Frequent aching behind one eye
  • Having a double vision or experiencing difficulty in focusing

PROXIMAL NEUROPATHY (DIABETIC NEUROPATHY)

We can also call this kind of neuropathy by the name of diabetic amyotrophy. In this kind, your legs, buttocks, hips and thighs may suffer damage in their nerves. Additionally, your chest and the abdominal area may also suffer some negative impact.

You will generally experience symptoms on one side of your body in proximal neuropathy, but after some time, the symptoms may reach out to the other side as well. In proximal neuropathy, you may experience:

  • Extreme stomach ache
  • Hindrance in rising smoothly and efficiently from a sitting position
  • Thigh muscles may shrink and weaken eventually
  • Sharp pains in the buttock, thighs or hips

WHEN SHOULD YOU CONSULT A DOCTOR

Suppose you have only recently discovered that you have diabetes. In that case, you may feel unsure of when is the right time to consult a doctor for guidance and awareness of neuropathy conditions. Look for the following symptoms and if you find anyone of them, consider it the right time to seek a doctor’s help:

  • Fainting and dizziness spells
  • Noting changes in your sexual, urination or digestive functions
  • Experiencing pain, weakness, tingling, burning or other such sensations in your feet or hands that hamper with your daily activities. Even if these sensations disturb your sleep pattern merely, consult a doctor immediately.
  • If you notice a sore or cut on your foot and don’t see it healing as it should.

TREATING NERVE PAIN IN DIABETES

While you may not replace your damaged nerves, there are some sure ways to prevent further damage from occurring. In fact, with the right measures and practices, you may also be able to relieve your pain to a vast extent.

First and foremost, you need to consult a well-reputed diabetes specialist who can help you set blood sugar level goals. By aiming to control your blood sugar and learning to monitor it, you will prevent damage to a great extent.

The doctor may ask you to lower your glucose levels to 70 to 130 mg/dl, milligrams per decilitre before your mealtimes. Similarly, the doctor may also tell you to maintain a blood sugar level to less than 180 mg/dl post your mealtimes.

On the personal side, you should strive to make a healthy routine that includes regular exercise, healthy and balanced diets suited to your diabetes and also take prescribed medications timely. This will ensure that your blood sugar level remains within the healthier range at all times.

Stay away from health risks that will surely make your diabetes even worse, such as smoking and unhealthy weight gain. In this regard, you may also work with a dietician or a doctor about the best ways to lose weight with diabetes and the effective ways to quit smoking (should you need it).

FINAL THOUGHTS

One cannot underestimate the extent of the damage diabetic neuropathy can cause, especially if a patient allows their glucose level tor age out of control. In nerve damage, you may lose feeling or the ability to experience pain in the feet, so it is even more important to maintain foot health and be conscious of blood sugar management at all times.

 

1 comment

  • The explanation of how neuropathy creeps up on a person who does not pay enough attention to blood sugar levels was excellent. Wish I had understand that earlier. Now I wish I had a book describing how one can encompass and control that in my daily life by including or excluding particular foods and activities for that. I want to know that there still can be life with diabetes.

    Tracey Moulton

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