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There are four types of diabetic neuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy, the most common form, affects the feet, legs, arms and hands. Autonomic neuropathy affects the bladder, lungs, heart, stomach, eyes, intestines and sex organs. Mononeuropathy causes damage to one single nerve, usually in the legs, arms or face.
Radiculoplexus neuropathy, also known as diabetic amyotrophy, affects the nerves closer to the hips and shoulders. It is a potentially disabling condition that is sometimes seen among people with type 2 diabetes. The condition often occurs in middle aged and elderly individuals who may not know that they suffer from diabetes. In fact, in almost one-third of the cases, amyotrophy led to the diagnosis of diabetes.It is estimated that about one percent of people with diabetes may suffer from this condition, also known as Bruns-Garland Syndrome.
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The condition stems from diabetic neuropathy, a complication of diabetes. Diabetic neuropathy occurs when a person's diabetes is uncontrolled, and is characterized by the malfunction of the nerves in the body. When the flow of blood to the legs is decreased in diabetics, nutrients and other substances required by the legs for proper functioning are then minimally transported. This further exacerbates the condition.
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There are several symptoms associated with diabetic amyotrophy. People who have this condition often experience unexplained weight loss and suffer asymmetrical weakness in the lower limbs. They may experience sudden and sharp pains in one thigh and hip area, possibly spreading to the other side. There is also a noticeable weakness in the arms, with the presence of myalgias or muscle pains also prevalent. Amyotrophy is also characterized by respiratory weakness and the loss of reflexes in the knee area.
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The best way to prevent or control diabetic amytrophy is to control the levels of glucose in the bloodstream. Eating habits should also be reviewed, and a diet that is low in fats and carbohydrates should be followed. Diabetics are also advised to participate in regular physical activity and avoid drinking alcoholic products.
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Neurologic recovery in affected patients is usually slow. Recovery can be hastened with the help of a physical therapist who can aid in the improvement of the functional mobility of the patient. The physical therapist can also provide the patient with instructions on the use of certain rehabilitation devices when necessary, or may may supervise a range-of-motion program for the maintenance and improvement of functions of the lower limbs.
An occupational therapist may also be called in to help an affected patient. The use of an adaptive equipment such as elevated toilet seat, reacher and tub bench can be made to assist the patient. The use of these equipment usually depend on the level of patient's weakness.
Aside from rehabilitation, medications for relief of pain brought about this condition may also be given.
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In most cases, complications of diabetes can be prevented by following certain practices. Controlling blood sugar levels is one of the most important thing that diabetics can do. Lifestyle changes such as regular physical activity, limiting or avoiding intake of alcoholic beverages, following a healthy diet low in fats and carbohydrates, and maintaining ideal weight are also necessary steps in preventing complications. Another important aspect is by taking medications regularly as instructed by physicians.