Diabetic neuropathy is a complication of diabetes that is considered to be common in people who have had diabetes for a while, but serious. This is because diabetic neuropathy can damage nerves and cause other serious medical complications. The intensity and frequency of the symptoms can vary due to the type of neuropathy, as well as from person to person.
Types of Neuropathy
There are four types of diabetic neuropathy, including peripheral, autonomic, proximal, and focal. Peripheral neuropathy, the most common type of diabetic neuropathy, affects mainly the toes, feet, hands, legs and arms. Autonomic neuropathy most commonly affects the heart, blood vessels, digestive system, urinary tract, sex organs, sweat glands, eyes and lungs.
People suffering from proximal neuropathy generally have symptoms in the thighs, buttocks, hips and legs. Focal neuropathy can affect the eyes, facial muscles, ears, pelvis, lower back, chest, abdomen, thighs, legs or feet.
Pain and Numbness
The pain can occur as a sensation of burning, tingling, sensitivity to touch, a sharp pain, or a jabbing pain in the affected area. Numbness is also a symptom of this type of neuropathy, and can be mild or severe.
The digestive system can be affected by autonomic neuropathy. The nerves in the digestive system are affected, and can cause constipation, diarrhea (or both), and the stomach opening too slowly resulting in loss of appetite, vomiting and nausea.
When the urinary tract is affected by autonomic neuropathy, bladder problems can result. This means that issues such as incontinence and infections can occur, and the urinary tract infections can be frequent.
Autonomic neuropathy affects the blood vessels by causing the body to have difficulty regulating blood pressure. This can cause a sharp drop in blood pressure from something such as moving to lie down or to rise from sitting.
The heart is affected by autonomic neuropathy because the body can struggle to regulate the heart rate. Another problem can be an increase in heart rate, even when at rest.
Focal or autonomic neuropathy can cause a number of vision problems, including the inability to focus, double vision or an ache behind one eye.
Radiculoplexus neuropathy is also called diabetic amyotrophy. It affects the lower body by causing weak thigh muscles, which can then atrophy. It can also cause severe pain that is onset suddenly in the thighs, buttocks and hips.
Other diabetic neuropathy symptoms that can occur include Bell’s palsy (paralysis on the face limited to one side), weight loss, abdominal swelling, difficulty exercising and problems with body temperature regulation.
Diabetic Neuropathy. Mayo Clinic Staff. March 17, 2010. https://www.mayoclinic.com/health/diabetic-neuropathy/DS01045
NINDS Diabetic Neuropathy Information Page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Prepared by Office of Communications and Public Liason. Last Updated September 16, 2008. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/diabetic/diabetic.htm
Diabetic Neuropathies: The Nerve Damage of Diabetes. Reviewed by Peter J. Dyck, MD. February 2009. https://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/neuropathies/