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An Overview of Peripheral Neuropathy Caused By Diabetes

written by: DulceCorazon • edited by: lrohner • updated: 9/22/2010

Diabetic peripheral neuropathy is one of the many potential complications of diabetes. Here are some basic facts about this condition, its symptoms, treatment and prevention.

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    About Peripheral Neuropathy in Diabetics

    Diabetic peripheral neuropathy is potential diabetes complication that can result in the loss of nerve function. It is characterized by damage to the peripheral nerves throughout the body. This can interfere with the communication between the brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves. For instance, if sensory information from the feet are affected, it can result in diabetics becoming unaware of having wounds or sores in that area.The most common symptoms of peripheral neuropathy are tingling, pain and numbness in the arms, hands, legs and feet.

    There are several types of diabetic neuropathy that can cause damage to nerves in various parts of the body, including the heart, urinary tract and digestive tract. And it is estimated that 7 out of 10 people with diabetes will develop some form of neuropathy in their lifetime.

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    Causes

    Uncontrolled blood sugar levels are the major culprit behind peripheral neuropathy in diabetics. In type 1 diabetics, symptoms of neuropathy usually after years of poorly controlled blood sugar levels, according to the American Diabetes Association. Type 2 diabetics may show symptoms after just a few years of poor blood sugar control.

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    Symptoms

    The symptoms of peripheral neuropathy among diabetics usually begin gradually. Patients typically experience a tingling sensation in their feet, which may also be experienced in the hands and gradually spread along the legs and arms. Likewise, numbness may be experienced. The skin may also become very sensitive, and pain may be felt in the affected areas. In some cases patients will feel gradual weakening of the muscles, especially those in the feet, hands, and legs.

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    Diagnosis

    Diabetics who experience tingling in their hands and feet or any other symptoms should immediately consult a physician for evaluation. Physicians may refer these patients to a neurologist for further testing and treatment. The neurologist take into account the patient’s medical and personal history while examining for signs of muscle weakness, numbness and changes in reflexes. He may check for any vitamin or metabolic deficiencies which may also affect the function of the nerves. Patients may be required to undergo a procedure called EMG or electromyography which tests the functions of the nerve and muscles.

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    Treatment

    Diabetics must keep their blood sugar levels at a normal range in order to treat this disease. In case of constant pain, physicians may give their patients oral medications for relief. In some cases, physicians prescribe other treatment options like acupuncture and physical therapy to relieve the pain. Treatments using electrical nerve stimulation, laser therapy and magnetic therapy have also be suggested to help in treating pain associated with diabetic peripheral neuropathy.

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    Prevention

    Controlling blood sugar levels can reduce the risks of developing diabetes complications,like neuropathies, eye problems and heart disease, among others. Those who already have symptoms of peripheral neuropathy can prevent further complications by proper care of their feet, observing for sores and being careful not to obtain injury in the area.