Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Nightmare That Is Diabetic Neuropathy

Living life as a diabetic is difficult enough. There are so many complications that can develop from a disease that has no known cure and major lifestyle changes have to be made just to cope with the many symptoms associated with the disease on a daily basis. One major risk of not closely following and controlling blood glucose levels is diabetic neuropathy, a potentially debilitating disease that is often developed by those with Type 2 diabetes.

What is Diabetic Neuropathy?

This condition is one that develops if blood glucose levels in a Type 2 diabetic are left to go unchecked. High levels of blood glucose can weaken the walls of capillaries in the body, the primary source of nutrients and oxygen for the nerves and in turn, damage the nerve endings they feed. This damage is progressive and can lead to devastating consequences if left untreated.

There are four basic types of neuropathy that can develop as a result of diabetes - peripheral, autonomic, radiculoplexus and mononeuropathy. Each one has its own set of symptoms, and can affect different areas of the body. Treatment of each type will determine what drugs are administered, as well as other therapies, including lifestyle changes and dietary supplements.

General Symptoms of Neuropathy

There are several warning signs or symptoms that everyone should watch out for and if they appear, get a full physical exam and tests to determine if you have the condition, which type and how far it has progressed. The goal of treating this disease is to slow the progress of neuropathy, restore function to the affected regions and effectively manage the pain associated with it. Unfortunately, just like diabetes, there is no known cure for this associated condition, either, at this time.

The warning signs of neuropathy can include an unusual burning sensation, tingling, weakness or pain in your hands or feet, especially at night; sudden dizziness when moving from sitting to standing; sudden changes in digestion, the ability to urinate or sudden development of sexual dysfunction. The most important part of the body to pay attention to is the feet, the first place most signs of neuropathy will appear. If there is a cut or sore on your foot that does not seem to be healing properly, or appears to be infected, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Risks and Complications

Peripheral neuropathy primarily affects the feet and legs, followed by the hands and arms, following the longest nerves in the body. It can lead to pain and difficulty while walking, muscle weakness and deformities of the bones and joints.

Autonomic neuropathy attacks the autonomic nervous system, the system that controls the heart, bladder, lungs, stomach, sexual organs and eyes. It can lead to incontinence, sexual dysfunction, problems with blood pressure, increased heart rates, and changes in how the eyes adjust to different levels of light.

Radiculoplexus neuropathy attacks the nerves closer to the hips and shoulders, rather than just the nerve endings in the arms and legs. This could lead to atrophied muscles, difficulty rising from a seated position, abdominal swelling and severe weight loss.

Mononeuropathy concentrates on only one nerve, generally in the arm, leg, or even the face. It can cause difficulty in focusing, double vision or pain behind the eye; paralysis on one side of the face or Bell's Palsy and lead to chest or abdominal pain.

Treatment

As there is no cure, the only treatment plan for this condition will chiefly include pain management, therapy to restore function to affected areas, and whatever can be done to slow the progress of the disease. To start, unhealthy habits have to be changed and a more diligent monitoring of blood glucose levels will have to be done. This means that the blood glucose before meals should be between 70 to 130, after meals less than 180 two hours afterwards, and the hemoglobin A1C should test at less than 7 percent.

Good foot care is also important, because it is so easy for cuts and other things like sores and blisters to become infected when you have diabetic neuropathy. Daily cleaning, moisturizing and inspections are required. Medications will be at the doctor's discretion, depending upon your progress.

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