Diabetic neuropathy is a common serious complication of diabetes. It is a type of nerve damage that can occur when elevated blood sugar injures nerve fibers throughout your body. Diabetic neuropathy most often damages nerves in your legs and feet.
In 2012, 29.1 million Americans, had diabetes. Approximately 1.25 million American children and adults have type 1 diabetes. Of the 29.1 million, 21.0 million were diagnosed, and 8.1 million were undiagnosed. Globally diabetic neuropathy affects approximately 132 million people as of 2010.
Signs and symptoms vary depending on the nerve or nerves affected. Symptoms usually develop gradually over years. The common symptoms of diabetes include frequent urination, excessive thirst, and feeling very hungry. Other symptoms include extreme fatigue, blurry vision, wounds which heal slowly, and numbness, “burning”, or “electric” pain in hands and feet. Diabetic neuropathy can affect the nerves in your body that control your bodies’ organ systems. It affects your digestive system, urinary tract, sex organs, heart, and blood vessels. Some conditions include urinary incontinence, erectile dysfunction (ED), narrowing of blood vessels, bloating, and diarrhea.
The primary risk factor for diabetic neuropathy is hyperglycemia. Cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, hypertension, height, and hypercholesterolemia are all considered independent risk factors for diabetic neuropathy.
Diabetic neuropathy is diagnosed based on your presentation of symptoms, history, and physical examination. During the exam, your doctor is likely to check your motor strength, reflexes, and sensory. In addition the doctor will assess your responses to touch, temperature and vibration. Nerve conduction studies (NCS) tests are used to measure the speed with which nerves send messages. This test will tell the doctor if nerve damage is present. This will help to confirm the diagnosis of neuropathy. The electromyogram (EMG) checks how well your nerves and muscles are working together.
Management of diabetic neuropathy (DN) includes control of hyperglycemia and other cardiovascular risk factors. For neuropathic pain, medications such as duloxetine (Cymbalta), pregabalin (Lyrica), and tapentadol (Nucynta) are utilized by physicians.
As always, early diagnosis is important for the best outcome. If you suspect diabetic neuropathy please call and consult with your doctor or go to the nearest emergency room for treatment.
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