Peripheral neuropathy is nerve damage triggered by chronically high blood sugar and diabetes. It leads to loss of sensation, numbness and at times, a pain in the legs, feet or hands. It is the most common complication of diabetes.
What causes peripheral neuropathy?
Chronically high blood sugar levels damage nerves not only in the extremities but also in additional parts of the body. These damaged nerves cannot effectively carry messages between the brain and other parts of the body.
You might be wondering …
Peripheral neuropathy means a person may not feel cold, heat or pain in the legs, feet or hands. If a foot has a cut or sore, a person may not know it, which is why it is imperative to inspect feet daily. If a shoe does not fit correctly, a foot ulcer could unknowingly develop.
The consequences could be life threatening. An infection that will not heal because of deprived blood flow creates risk for developing ulcers and could lead to amputation or even death.
The nerve damage presents itself differently in each person. Some people feel pain, then later feel tingling. Other people lose the feeling in toes and fingers, or numbness. These transformations happen slowly throughout months to years, so a person might not even be aware of it.
Since changes are subtle and happen as people get older, people tend not to pay attention to the signs of nerve damage, playing it off as just a part of getting older.
However, some treatments and therapies can assist in slowing down the progression of this condition and reduce the damage. Get advice from doctors about what the options are, and do not disregard the signs because with time, it could become worse.
Symptoms of nerve damage from diabetes
Numbness is one of the most common symptoms of nerve damage due to diabetes. The loss of feeling is a particular concern. People who lose sensation are the ones most often to obtain ulcers on the feet and to end up requiring amputations.
People describe the early signs of peripheral neuropathy in numerous ways:
- Pins and needles
- Deep stabs
Others indicate sharp pain, tingling, cramps, prickling and a burning sensation. Still others have exaggerated sensitivity to touch.
The symptoms are usually worse in the later part of the day, mostly at night. Be on the lookout for these changes:
Sensitivity to touch. A person may feel a heightened sensitivity to touch, or numbness or tingling in the feet, toes, legs or hands.
Muscle weakness. Elevated blood sugars could damage nerves that communicate to the muscles how to move. This might lead to muscle frailty. A person may have trouble getting up from a chair, walking, carrying things or grabbing items.
Balance problems. A person may feel more unsteady than usual and uncoordinated when they walk; this happens when the body adapts to something different brought on by muscle damage.
Because people with type 2 diabetes may have multiple health issues, doctors do not always diagnose peripheral neuropathy when symptoms first appear. Be aware that the pain could be confused with other problems. If the pain is severe, in the case of diabetes and peripheral neuropathy, it could be chronic and needs attention.