• What is Diabetic Neuropathy?

    Posted on November 29, 2009 by in Featured


    In keeping with National Diabetes month, The Aging Suite will be discussing diabetic neuropathy this week.

    What is Diabetic Neuropathy?

    Diabetic Neuropathy can occur in all of the body’s organs, impacting the way in which individuals function safely in their homes. This impact can be due to issues such as sensation and vision loss as well as muscle weakness.  By educating our readers about diabetes’ effects on the body, we hope to continue in our efforts to help the elderly population successfully age in place.

    It’s estimated that 60 to 70 percent of people with diabetes have diabetic neuropathy.  Diabetic neuropathy, nerve damage caused by diabetes, can occur in all of the body’s organ systems.  The cause of the nerve damage can be due to several factors such as:

    • High blood glucose levels
    • Abnormal blood fat levels
    • Nerve inflammation
    • Low insulin levels
    • Smoking or alcohol use

    Risk Factors for Diabetic Neuropathy include:

    • Being overweight
    • Being a diabetic for a long time period
    • Diabetics who have a difficult time controlling their blood sugar
    • Diabetics who have high levels of blood fat
    • Diabetics with high blood pressure

    There are 4 classifications of Diabetic Neuropathies; they are, peripheral, autonomic, proximal, and focal.

    Peripheral Neuropathies
    This is the most common type of diabetic neuropathy and is nerve damage in the arms, hands, legs, and feet.  Symptoms include:

    • Numbness or tingling
    • Pain and cramps
    • Loss of balance
    • Muscle weakness

    Autonomic Neuropathies affect the eyes, heart, lungs, kidneys, sex organs, as well as the urinary, respiratory, and digestive systems.  Symptoms include:

    • Hypotension
    • Being unaware when your blood sugar levels drop
    • Constipation
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Urinary tract infections
    • Urinary incontinence
    • Erectile dysfunction

    Proximal Neuropathies are more common among older diabetics and individuals with type II diabetes.  This type of neuropathy initially starts off as pain in the legs, thighs, buttocks, or hips.  Proximal neuropathies cause leg weakness, resulting in mobility issues.

    Focal Neuropathies are unpredictable and can cause severe pain.  It often impacts nerves in the legs, head, and trunk.  This type of neuropathy occurs more often in older adults and can cause:

    • Double vision
    • Pain in the lower back and pelvis area
    • Thigh pain
    • Chest or abdominal pain
    • Bell’s palsy

    Diabetic Neuropathies can be prevented by managing your blood sugar levels and keeping them to a normal or as close to normal as possible range.   Diabetic foot care is also essential.  Sores and ulcers can lead to infection.  Diabetic neuropathies that cause pain may be treated with pain medications.  For those who experience urinary tract infections, they may be treated with antibiotics.  Your physician may prescribe occupational and physical therapy to address muscle weakness.  Check out this week’s technology in the Suite to learn more about diabetic foot care.

    Source:   National Institutes of Health