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What does diabetic neuropathy feel like?

Diabetes is a severe chronic disease where your blood glucose level is too high, either because your pancreas is not producing enough insulin or your body is not using the insulin it makes. Insulin is a hormone that controls your blood sugar levels. Insulin is a critical factor in developing type 2 diabetes. This essential hormone controls the body's blood sugar (glucose) levels and is necessary for survival.


Diabetes is linked to a higher limb nerve damage (neuropathy) incidence. Blood flow problems and high blood sugar levels might harm the body's nerves. This condition is more likely to occur when blood sugar is uncontrolled.


Diagnosis of diabetes is frequently delayed for several years before diabetic neuropathy symptoms appear. When they are first diagnosed, some people with diabetes with a slow progression already have nerve damage.


What does diabetic neuropathy feel like


Most frequently, the nerves in the feet and legs are affected. Yet, what does this condition feels like?


  • Increased pain at night

Diabetic peripheral neuropathy can cause crippling pain, tingling, and burning sensations at any time of day. However, these unpleasant sensations are much worse at night for some people, especially those trying to sleep.


When the temperature drops, your peripheral nerves may tingle more at night, and you may have more burning or stabbing aches. When you're colder, your heart rate decreases, slow your blood, and heightens pain sensations. Because the relationship between insufficient sleep and greater pain is reciprocal, it is challenging to interrupt this pattern. Sleepless, apparently never-ending evenings cause disruptions in your life and worsen nerve discomfort.


  • Pins and needles pain

An unpleasant tingling or prickling feeling known as "pins and needles" is typically felt in the arms, legs, hands, or feet. It could be either irreversible or transitory. Constant prickling or tingling could signify more severe problems like inflammation, nerve damage, and diabetic neuropathy. 



Pins and needles can occur when a sensory nerve is compressed due to being in a tight or uncomfortable position, and the messages are interrupted—functioning returns as soon as the nerve is relieved of pressure. The resumption of pain signals from nerves to the brain results in an unsettling, prickling feeling. This is because the arteries that supply the nerve with blood are constricted along with the nerve itself.


  • Burning in the feet

Burning or inflamed feet might be temporarily caused by weariness or a skin infection, but they typically indicate nerve injury (peripheral neuropathy).


Damaged nerve cells are more likely to misfire and become overactive. As a result, despite no wound, damaged nerves cause the brain to experience pain. This is the nerves' additional way of expressing discomfort, ranging in intensity from barely discernible to incapacitating.


  • Heightened numbness

Foot numbness is a frequent first symptom for many people who have nerve loss from diabetes, and it can affect the bottoms, tops, toes, ankles, feet, or legs.


The leading causes of numbness in the feet are a lack of blood flow or nerve damage. A damaged or crushed nerve impairs the body's capacity to perceive normal feelings. A patient's inability to feel their feet while walking may worsen this sensation. When feet lose all sensation, this becomes very dangerous. Because of this, the patient cannot determine whether their feet have been hurt or whether the bathwater they will enter is too hot. This numbness can lead to severe scalds, burns, and wounds.


  • Muscle weakness

The progression of peripheral neuropathy may lead to muscular weakness. In addition, Neuropathy scores are correlated with muscle strength reductions in the thigh and leg muscles.


The peripheral nervous system processes more than just sensory data. These nerves also transmit signals for balance and mobility. Insufficient or partial information is sent to the muscles by damaged nerves, leading to weakness and poor coordination. When motor abnormalities are more severe, the lower leg and foot muscles can atrophy and become distally weak. The loss of muscle force is directly caused by muscle atrophy.


  • Wounds that heal slowly

Even the smallest cut could take a long time for persons with peripheral neuropathy to heal (or may not fully recover). In addition to ensuring proper blood flow for healthy circulation, nerves aid wound healing.


Neuropathy itself has a detrimental impact on how quickly wounds heal. Patients with diabetes mellitus and polyneuropathy demonstrated a lower density of nerves in the skin, and denervated skin exhibits impaired wound healing. In addition, wound healing is hampered by a lack of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF), which is evident in diabetic ulcers.


How is diabetic neuropathy diagnosed?


Patients have the best chance of receiving appropriate therapy if their diabetic neuropathy is detected earlier. However, since not all foot or limb pain indicates diabetic neuropathy, a proper diagnosis is necessary to determine the right action.


Typically, diabetic neuropathy can be identified by a physical examination, detailed assessment of your symptoms, and medical history. A doctor might:


  • Check your tendon reflexes and overall muscle strength and tone.
  • Examine your muscles' sensitivity to vibration, temperature, discomfort, posture, and touch.

Your doctor may order or perform other tests in addition to the physical examination to assist in diagnosing diabetic neuropathy, such as:


  • They are using ultrasound to examine the urinary tract's components for health.
  • Do filament testing. Your skin is rubbed with a smooth nylon fiber (monofilament) to gauge your sensitivity to the touch.
  • Electromyography. This examination, also known as needle testing, is frequently performed with nerve conduction investigations. Your muscles' electrical discharges are measured to ascertain how they react to electrical stimuli.
  • Testing for nerve conduction. This examination examines the flow of electricity through a nerve in your arms and legs.
  • Autonomic evaluation. It may be necessary to undergo specific tests to check your sweat and how your blood pressure fluctuates in various situations.
  • Examination of cutaneous nerve innervation by skin biopsies.
  • Muscle and nerve biopsy specimens for histopathological analysis
  • A thorough assessment, which includes reviewing blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose screens, along with more sophisticated screening, aids the doctor in ruling out other causes and locating the root of the issue.


If you suffer recurring or regular occurrences of any of the previously listed symptoms of diabetic neuropathy, you should always consult a doctor so that you can take immediate action.


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