Diabetes (medically named diabetes mellitus) can cause a number of additional health issues and side effects if poorly managed. Diabetic neuropathy is a common problem for many individuals with diabetes and affects the nerves of the peripheries, mostly the lower legs and feet.
As a diabetic, keeping your blood sugar levels within a healthy range is essential to prevent diabetic neuropathy and other health issues. Poor management of diabetes can cause chronically high blood glucose levels that damage your nerves and cause extreme discomfort or pain.
Understanding what diabetic neuropathy is and how to manage it effectively is vital for your health as someone with diabetes. We’ve discussed diabetic neuropathy and its management options below.
What is Diabetic Neuropathy?
Diabetic neuropathy refers to a type of nerve damage that mainly affects the legs and feet. This nerve damage occurs due to prolonged exposure to high blood glucose levels, which often happens in poorly managed diabetes.
Diabetic neuropathy is split into four main types: peripheral, proximal, autonomic, and focal. Each type affects a different area of the body and leads to varying symptoms.
The main symptoms of diabetic neuropathy include tingling, numbness, and pain in the affected areas. In severe cases, it can also lead to muscle weakness, loss of balance, and ulcers. Often, neuropathy-related ulcers become infected and fail to heal.
How is Diabetic Neuropathy Managed?
Thankfully, treating your diabetes properly can significantly reduce the risk of neuropathy. However, if you’re already suffering from diabetic neuropathy, there are steps you can take to prevent it from worsening and manage the associated symptoms.
Blood sugar management
Controlling your blood glucose levels is the most important factor in managing diabetic neuropathy and slowing its progression down.
Regularly monitoring your blood sugar levels and learning which foods impact it the most can help you make informed dietary decisions. You can also work with a doctor and dietitian for expert advice on managing your blood glucose and diabetic neuropathy effectively.
Comfort and foot care
There are lots of great medical aids that you can use to make yourself more comfortable if you’re dealing with the negative symptoms of diabetic neuropathy. For example, if you’re suffering from peripheral neuropathy that impacts your feet, wearing neuropathy sandals can promote better foot health and minimize pain and discomfort.
Consider going for regular foot inspections with your doctor and avoid activities that increase the risk of foot injuries. If you get any cuts or open wounds on your feet, contact your doctor for advice on managing them to promote faster healing and reduce the risk of infection.
Pain is a common symptom of diabetic neuropathy, and it can make daily living very difficult and uncomfortable. Most diabetics take regular medications to reduce neuropathic pain and manage other diabetes-related symptoms.
Common systemic medications include anticonvulsants and antidepressants. However, you can also use topical treatments (ones that you massage directly into your skin and get absorbed into the bloodstream through the skin) to reduce pain locally and treat open wounds.
You might find physiotherapy (physical therapy) useful, too. If your pain is exaggerated by poor walking technique, a physiotherapist can work with you to improve your gait and reduce foot pain.