Neuropathy is nerve damage that may be caused by a number of different medical conditions. According to Mayo Clinic, individuals with chronic high blood sugar have a greater risk of developing diabetic neuropathy. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says between 60 and 70 percent of people with diabetes have some degree of neuropathy. Damaged blood vessels, nerve inflammation, carpal tunnel syndrome, and other mechanical injuries to the nerves can also help cause this condition.
Some people with diabetic neuropathy don't notice any symptoms, especially at first. For many, the first signs are numbness, pain, or tingling in the feet, legs, hands, or arms.
A wide variety of other symptoms may come with nerve damage as well. Watch for stomach issues like constipation, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and indigestion. Women may experience vaginal dryness, and men may exhibit erectile dysfunction. Both sexes may have trouble urinating and may faint or become dizzy from a drop in blood pressure. Many people with diabetic neuropathy experience weight loss and depression, though these are not considered to be neuropathy symptoms.
Some individuals inherit a higher likelihood of developing a nerve disease. Smoking and drinking alcohol can also increase a person's risk of developing the condition.
The National Institutes of Health states that people who have had diabetes for 25 years or longer have the highest rate of neuropathy. This is likely because their bodies have the hardest time regulating blood sugar. They have also been exposed to more occurrences of high blood glucose incidents than people who have been newly diagnosed with diabetes.
There are six tests often used to diagnose neuropathy. If you show possible symptoms, a doctor will likely first try a filament test. He or she will use a nylon fiber, known as a monofilament, to examine your sensitivity to touch. A physician may also perform a nerve conduction study to measure the electrical signals in your nerves. Next, an electromyography or EMG may be necessary; it more extensively assesses nerve reactions. Quantitative sensory testing and autonomic testing may also be done if your doctor feels they will be useful.
If you are diagnosed with diabetic neuropathy, healthcare providers will work with you to relieve pain and slow neuropathy's progression. Managing your blood sugar may be the first line of defense when treating neuropathy—keep your levels inside a healthy range to lessen additional nerve damage.
A physician may tell you to change your lifestyle by eating a more balanced diet, quitting drinking and smoking, and working toward a healthy weight. Working with a nutritionist could make it easier to adjust to and achieve these changes.
Talk with your doctor if you notice signs that you may have diabetic neuropathy. The sooner you are diagnosed, the more likely you will be able to slow its progress and effectively treat your symptoms.