Slightly more than 11% of Americans have diabetes, a chronic disease that can lead to some very serious and life-changing complications. At the head of this list is peripheral neuropathy, or nerve damage.
If you’re wondering whether peripheral neuropathy is a done deal when you have diabetes, the answer is no, but it is a major threat.
To expand on this important topic, Gill Neuroscience’s own Dr. Paul Gill, who is a board-certified neurologist, looks at the link between diabetes and peripheral neuropathy and how you can protect yourself.
Let’s get straight to one important statistic that you should keep at the top of your mind when reading further: Peripheral neuropathy affects about one-third to one-half of people with diabetes in the United States.
So this complication may not be inevitable, but it still poses a very serious risk.
When you have diabetes, the glucose levels in your blood are higher than normal, and this extra blood sugar can damage the delicate blood vessels that service your peripheral nerves.
Diabetic neuropathy tends to develop in places that are farthest from your heart, namely your lower limbs, which includes your lower legs, ankles, and feet.
As a result of this nerve damage, you can experience:
The pain is often described as shooting or burning, and it can flare during certain times of the day, such as when you lie down to sleep.
Even more seriously, this nerve damage also makes it more difficult to sense whether you’ve injured your feet or lower limbs.
The reason we’re concerned about this is that the compromised circulation in your lower limbs makes it harder for them to heal from injury. And slower-healing wounds leave you far more susceptible to limb-threatening infections.
As you can see, diabetic neuropathy can have a cascading effect, and the problem is mostly irreversible once the nerves are damaged.
So our goal is to prevent peripheral neuropathy in the first place or halt the progression of existing nerve damage. The best place to start in this effort is to manage your diabetes, which means managing the levels of glucose in your system.
Once your blood sugar is under control, you can further support your nerve and vascular health by:
If you have existing peripheral neuropathy, we can do our part to manage the symptoms with medications, as well as adjunct treatments like peripheral nerve stimulation.
The sooner you get going on prevention practices, the more able you’ll be to avoid, or better manage, peripheral neuropathy.