What is Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy?
Diabetic neuropathy refers to nerve damage caused by diabetes. Moreover, when it affects the nerves in the extremities such as those in the arms and the feet, it is called diabetic peripheral neuropathy.
Diabetic peripheral neuropathy is often confused with a different condition affecting the same areas known as peripheral arterial disease. However, this condition is distinct from diabetic peripheral neuropathy as peripheral disease affects the blood vessels, while diabetic peripheral neuropathy affects the nerves. With that said, with diabetic neuropathy, three types of nerves can be affected, which include:
- Sensory Nerves: allow for environmental sensations like touch and pain
- Motor Nerves: allow voluntary muscle control
- Autonomic Nerves: allow various involuntary functions, like breathing & sweating
Diabetic peripheral neuropathy is not a condition with sudden onset, instead, it develops slowly, and unfortunately, it tends to worsen over time. In some patients, symptoms of diabetic neuropathy may develop before they are diagnosed with diabetes itself is diagnosed. However, having diabetes for several years may increase the chance of diabetic neuropathy development.
While the symptoms of diabetic peripheral neuropathy can be painful, discomforting, and unpleasant, the loss of sensation that is associated with it, can be especially dangerous as sores and ulcers may develop and become infected without the patient knowing as they have limited sense of pain.
What are the Causes of Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy?
The nerve damage that is present with diabetic peripheral neuropathy is more common in patients with poorly managed diabetes, with abnormally high blood glucose levels. However, patients with controlled blood glucose levels can also develop diabetic neuropathy. Given this trend, there are several explanations for why it develops which range from high blood glucose causing nerve damage or poor circulation that results from constricted blood flow.
What are the Symptoms of Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy?
Since diabetic neuropathy can affect different types of nerves, the symptoms vary depending on which nerves are affected. These symptoms can include:
For sensory neuropathy:
- Numbness and/or tingling in the feet
- Sharp, burning pain and discomfort in the feet or legs
For motor neuropathy:
- Muscle weakness and decreased muscle tone in feet and legs
- Loss of balance
- Changes in foot structure
For autonomic neuropathy:
- Dry feet
- Cracked skin
Over time as diabetic peripheral neuropathy progress, more than one type of nerve can be affected. Unfortunately, the combined damage of the diseased nerves can lead to infected ulcers, which the patient might not be aware of until more systemic symptoms such as fevers and chills appear.
How is Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy Diagnosed?
To diagnose diabetic peripheral neuropathy, Dr. Syamak Yamini located in Porter Ranch, Encino, and Los Angeles, CA will obtain a patient’s comprehensive medical history and symptoms and will perform various in-office examinations. The aim of these examinations is to determine the patient's reflex, ability to sense stimuli such as touch and vibrations. In addition, various neurological and arterial tests may be ordered for a more complete diagnosis.
How is Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy Treated?
To treat diabetic peripheral neuropathy, Dr. Syamak Yamini first works to ensure a patient’s blood sugar levels are within the normal range. Additionally, the symptoms of diabetic peripheral neuropathy, such as burning and tingling, can be treated with various medications that selectively treat the symptoms. Sometimes, more than one medication may be necessary to alleviate diabetic peripheral neuropathy symptoms.
How to Prevent Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy or Minimize Its Harmful Symptoms?
In preventing diabetic peripheral neuropathy and minimizing its symptoms, the patient plays a significant role in having to follow the recommended guidelines and treatment options consistently. These include:
- Keeping blood sugar controlled.
- Wearing well-fitted shoes
- Daily foot examinations
- Periodic foot examinations by a podiatrist
Dr. Syamak Yamini located in Porter Ranch, Encino, and Los Angeles, CA can work with you to provide high-quality care to manage diabetic peripheral neuropathy.