What Is Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy?

Diabetic peripheral neuropathy is nerve damage that specifically affects arms, hands, legs and feet. This is different from peripheral arterial disease (PID), which affects the blood vessels rather than the nerves. Diabetic peripheral neuropathy develops gradually, worsening over time. If your diabetes in not managed, you may be at increased risk for developing this nerve damage. Controlled blood sugar levels, however, are no guarantee that you will not develop this condition. As the condition progresses, damage to the nerves can lead loss of sensation and the development of ulcers (open sores).

People with diabetes have difficulty in healing and are prone to infections, often leading to serious complications that may result in the loss of your toe, foot or leg.

The groups of nerves affected by diabetic neuropathy are:

Sensory nerves enable you to feel pain, temperature, and other sensations. Numbness caused by sensory neuropathy may mean you do not notice when you stub your toe or cut your foot. Symptoms associated with sensory nerve damage include: tingling or numbness in the feet, pain and discomfort in the legs and feet, sharp pain, burning sensation in the feet.

Motor nerves control the muscles, and muscle strength and tone. Motor neuropathy may contribute to the development of bunions and hammertoes. Symptoms associated with motor nerve damage include: loss of balance, loss of muscle tone and muscle weakness in the lower legs and feet, changes to the shape of your foot which can lead to pressure areas.

Autonomic nerves control certain involuntary body functions, such as blood pressure, heart rate, sweating, bowel and kidney function and digestion. Autonomic neuropathy can lead to the development of gout if uric acid builds up in your body. Symptoms associated with autonomic nerve damage include: dry cracked skin on your feet, fluctuation in glucose levels.

How Is Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy Treated?

In order to diagnose diabetic peripheral neuropathy, your podiatrist will review your symptoms and perform in-office tests on your feet and legs. They will assess your reflexes and your ability to feel light touch and vibrations. Additional neurologic tests may be ordered as needed. Treatment of diabetic peripheral neuropathy will center on controlling your blood sugar level. Medications may be prescribed to relieve certain symptoms like burning and tingling. Physical therapy may be used to reduce balance or other problems.

Prevention plays a vital role in avoiding serious injuries and complications. Controlling your blood sugar levels and following these diabetic foot care guidelines. In addition to regular podiatry exams, schedule regular visits with your primary care physician or endocrinologist. Your doctors will work together to prevent and treat complications from your diabetes.

If you are suffering from symptoms of diabetic peripheral neuropathy, give us a call at one of our 5 local podiatry offices in Charlotte, Concord and Harrisburg today for more information or to schedule an appointment.