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Diabetic Neuropathy: An Overview

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A condition that typically affects individuals who are diabetic or have high blood pressure, diabetic neuropathy can affect nerve endings throughout the entire body. It most often affects the legs and occurs when nerve endings are affected by high blood sugar. Patients who are suffering from diabetic neuropathy should always be monitored by a physician to ensure that the condition does not cause further problems.

What are the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy?

There are many symptoms that can accompany diabetic neuropathy, but the most common symptoms affect the legs and the feet. Tingling, burning, or loss of sensation in the feet are major indicators that the condition is present. Those who suffer from diabetic neuropathy may also not be able to feel any pain in their feet or legs. Muscle weakness and a difficulty when trying to move or walk are also symptoms of the condition. The feet and the legs may be affected by diabetic neuropathy; they may have sores, ulcers or infections. Symptoms do not begin to show up until the nerve endings have already been damaged.

Complications of the condition can include increased infections, an increased risk for sepsis, and irreparable damage that can lead to the eventual amputation of the foot or leg. Many people who have diabetic neuropathy may not be aware the condition is present until damage has already been done to the nerve endings. One of the most common issues that rises from diabetic neuropathy is gangrene. Gangrene is an infection that can spread to the rest of the body if it is left untreated. Patients who have a gangrene infection will have to have the foot or leg amputated.

How is diabetic neuropathy diagnosed?

A doctor will most likely be able to diagnose diabetic neuropathy by considering a patient’s medical history and performing a physical examination. The doctor may recommend that the patient have nerve testing done to confirm the condition, and might also order electrolyte tests and blood sugar tests. Once the doctor has confirmed that a patient has diabetic neuropathy, the doctor and the patient can begin working together to ease the symptoms.

How is diabetic neuropathy treated?

The best way to handle diabetic neuropathy is to prevent it before it can become a problem. A doctor will recommend that an individual manages their blood sugar properly, avoids alcohol and tobacco, and takes better care of their legs and feet. If nerve damage has already progressed, doctors will often recommend nerve medication for the patient along with physical therapies that can help the regain sensations in the feet or legs. Medications that are meant to help patients who are suffering from seizures will also help reduce the amount of nerve pain that is in a foot or leg.