What is diabetic neuropathy and how to prevent it

Diabetes has become increasingly common, but if left untreated for a long time, it can lead to various complications including diabetic neuropathy.

Diabetes mellitus is one of the most common lifestyle diseases in today’s world. India ranks second with regard to the number of diabetes patients. That’s exactly why it is important to diagnose the condition and treat it properly, or it can lead to conditions such as diabetic neuropathy.

But before we move on to the details, it is essential to understand what diabetes really is. It is a chronic disease in which the body cannot use the sugars and carbohydrates that are ingested through food. When food is eaten, it is broken down into glucose and released into the bloodstream. When the blood glucose increases, the pancreases releases insulin to regulate the sugar levels in the body.

diabetic neuropathy
Diabetes can lead to a host of other health problems. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

But in case the body does not release enough insulin, or is unable to use the insulin to convert food into energy, then complications arise that can damage the body. Some of the common symptoms observed in this scenario include frequent urination, increased thirst and increased appetite.

These are the three most common types of diabetes:

Type 1: In this type, the pancreas makes no or little insulin to convert blood sugar to energy. Daily insulin injections are required in this case.

Type 2: This type begins with insulin resistance, in which the body cells fail to respond to insulin properly. The most common cause is obesity and lack of physical activity. But it can be controlled by eating a proper diet and exercising regularly. You can also contain it using medications such as insulin sensitizers with or without insulin.

GestationalGestational diabetes occurs when pregnant women, who don’t have a history of diabetes, develop high blood sugar levels. It can be managed by eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Sometimes, insulin shots are required as well. Most of the time, it gets resolved after the mother delivers the baby. But she should continue to keep a track of her blood sugar levels.

If left untreated, diabetes can have both short-term and long-term complications. One of them is diabetic neuropathy.

diabetic neuropathy
It’s important for you to take care to avoid gestational diabetes. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
What does diabetic neuropathy entail?

Diabetic neuropathy can be termed as the damage to the nerves that happens as a consequence of diabetes. It majorly affects the legs and feet, followed by arms and hands. Symptoms can be mild to severe, and can vary based on the nerves it has affected.

Signs and symptoms of diabetic neuropathy:
  • Numbness
  • Tingling or burning sensation
  • Pain or cramps
  • Increased sensitivity to touch
  • Symptoms can be worse at night
diabetic neuropathy
Diabetic neuropathy can lead to pain and cramps. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Diabetic neuropathy and pregnancy

Diabetic neuropathy is not so common during pregnancy. But if it happens, it can be problematic for the pregnant woman. Peripheral nerve function may affect the mother’s and fetus’ health during pregnancy.

How can you help yourself?
  1. Maintain your blood glucose levels
  2. Take care of your feet by keeping them clean and dry. Toenails should be trimmed cautiously. Prefer wearing well-cushioned shoes.
  3. Practice deep breathing exercise and relaxation techniques to cope with nerve pain.
  4. Physiotherapy can help in reducing dependency on painkillers. Gait training and postural care helps in preventing foot complications. Exercise therapy helps in reducing muscle spasms and enhances generalized strengthening
  5. Electrotherapeutic modalities can also be used for pain management

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