Diabetic neuropathy is quite common in people who suffer from diabetes. It is caused by not managing the condition properly over a period of time. Neuropathy is actually a blanket term for a number of different nerve damage conditions experienced by diabetics. Because there are various conditions, and because each individual is unique, the symptoms experienced can vary widely.
In fact, some people don’t have any symptoms at all, whereas others have debilitating symptoms such as paralysis, numbness, pain, tingling, and more in various parts of their body. While peripheral neuropathy, which affects the extremities, is most common, neuropathy can actually occur in any part of the body, including the sex organs, heart, digestive tract, and any other organ.
It is believed that between 60% and 70% of those who have diabetes will have neuropathy to some degree. This can happen at any time, but the risk increases with age and the longer the condition is poorly managed. Neuropathy is most common in people who were diagnosed 25 years ago or more. It is particularly common in those who struggle to control their blood glucose levels, and in those who are overweight, have high blood pressure, or high levels of bad cholesterol.
The Causes of Diabetic Nerve Pain
Because there are different types of diabetic nerve pain, there are also different causes associated with it. At present, studies are being conducted to determine how high glucose levels in the blood affect nerve damage. Overall, however, a number of factors are believed to be responsible.
Diabetic neuropathy occurs when the nerves are damaged as a result of prolonged elevation of blood glucose levels. There are several types of this condition, each named for affecting a different collection of nerves in the body. So when it comes to determining a complete list of the symptoms associated with diabetic nerve pain, it is important to understand how these different collections of nerves react when the condition flares up. What may be one symptom for one type may not be the same for another.
Firstly, there are metabolic factors, which include the duration of diabetes and levels of blood sugar. Secondly, there are neurovascular factors. These can damage the body’s different blood vessels, which are responsible for the transportation of nutrients and oxygen to the nerves. Other factors include nerve inflammation caused by an autoimmune response, carpal tunnel syndrome or other physical injuries to the nerves, genetic factors that leave someone more susceptible to nerve problems, and lifestyle, with alcohol consumption and smoking believed to be contributing factors.
Most Common Diabetic Neuropathy Symptoms
Each individual will have very different symptoms. It all depends on which type of neuropathy they suffer from, and where the affected nerves are located. It is not uncommon for the condition to be fully asymptomatic, but most people experience pain, tingling, and numbness, particularly in the feet. Usually, these symptoms are very minor.
However, neuropathy is a progressive disease, which means the symptoms get worse over time, with each flareup being slightly worse than the last one. Symptoms can affect any part of the body, including the nervous system (involuntary or autonomic), the motor system, and the sensory system. People who suffer from focal neuropathy will often experience sudden and very severe pain.
Usually, the condition leads to pain, tingling, and numbness in the fingers, hands, arms, toes and feet, and/or legs. The muscle tissue in the hands and feet also becomes wasted. People often suffer from nausea and/or vomiting, as well as indigestion. Constipation and diarrhea are also common, and this is not to be confused with IBS, which some patients self-diagnose with.
When people stand up, their blood pressure will often drop, leading to faintness or dizziness. Some people also find urinating very difficult. If the nerves in the sex organs are affected, women may experience vaginal dryness, whereas men may experience erectile dysfunction. Generalized weakness is also very common.
Neuropathy is almost always a symptom of an underlying condition. However, it significantly reduces someone’s quality of life. As a result, it may make people develop other conditions, including depression and weight loss, meaning those conditions are symptomatic of a symptom themselves.
Types of Diabetic Nerve Damage
As stated, the exact symptoms of diabetic nerve damage vary depending on the type of neuropathy someone suffers from. As such, those with peripheral neuropathy, which is the most common, will experience pain and loss of feeling in their hands, arms, legs, feet, toes, and fingers. Those with autonomic neuropathy usually have bladder and bowel problems, excessive perspiration, and a changed sexual response. Additionally, they may find that the nerves in their eyes and lungs are affected due to their blood pressure. Furthermore, it can lead to hypoglycemia unawareness, which means that people can no longer feel when their blood sugar levels drop dangerously low.
Those who suffer from proximal neuropathy will experience pain in their buttocks, hips, and/or thighs. They also often develop weak legs. Finally, people can suffer from focal neuropathy. Here, a single or group of nerves is suddenly affected, leading to pain and weakness in the muscle. This can happen anywhere in the body.
Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy
Probably the most common form of this kind of nerve damage for the diabetic is peripheral neuropathy, which affects the motor, sensory, and autonomic nerves. There are quite a few symptoms that may be present when dealing with this type. They can range from very mild to extremely severe and debilitating.
The most common would be:
- pain in the affected area
- loss of balance
Since autonomic nerves are responsible for controlling the natural bodily functions you can also expect symptoms that can affect the heart rate, the digestive system, and even the ability to empty the bowels or bladder. Those who have this condition can also expect to have difficulty in managing their blood pressure, diarrhea or constipation, or profuse sweating.
Symptoms of Cranial Neuropathy
This type of neuropathy causes damage to the nerves responsible for your ability to move and feel. These nerves, located in the brain, affect how the body may move or function and the extent of its effects is determined by which nerves are affected and how many. Symptoms can reduce the amount of blood flow traveling from the optic artery to the optic nerve. This could cause ischemic optic neuropathy, which can impair your vision in a number of ways. In addition, the condition can also affect the auditory nerves that are responsible for carrying the information on sounds detected by the inner ear to the brain and can impact one's ability to hear.
In addition, amyloid neuropathy is a complication of amyloidosis, which is a rare form of the disease that develops as a result of an abnormal protein (amyloid) building up in the body's tissues and organs. Signs of nerve damage caused by amyloidosis are usually the result of the dysfunction of the sensory and autonomic nerves because of the deposition of amyloid.
Thus, patients may suffer from:
- unusual sensations known as paresthesias
- sexual dysfunction
- abnormal sweating
Other Symptoms to Watch Out For
There are also other symptoms that may be common for all types of this condition where nerves as damaged.
Most patients complain of:
- numbness or tingling of the feet in the lower legs
- a painful or burning sensation
- the opposite where there is an absence of feeling in the affected region
You may also feel:
- nausea or vomiting
- fainting spells
- erectile dysfunction
- trouble swallowing
- low blood pressure
Some patients even experience Bell's palsy (a type of paralysis that affects only one side of the face) or pain in a very localized area of the body.
Getting a complete listing of diabetic nerve pain symptoms can be quite extensive. Because there are so many different types of this nerve condition that affect just about every area of the body, it is impossible to list all of the potential symptoms.
Since the nerves affect every bodily function, feeling, or sensation one might experience a flare-up at any place in the body and at any given time. Your best course of defense and means of fighting off the symptoms of this disease is to identify the underlying cause and treat the very thing that is triggering your condition.
Diagnosis is made by a careful analysis of the symptoms present and undergoing a battery of tests your doctor may require. These could include nerve conduction studies where the speed of signals sent from the nerves is measured and several other tests designed to measure the electrical discharges your muscles produce.
There are probably just as many different types of treatments for diabetic neuropathic pain as there are types of the nerve condition.
- For diabetics, the best treatment for neuropathic pain is by learning how to manage their blood glucose levels. This can be done through a balanced nutrition plan, medication, or dietary supplements to keep the body functioning properly. While one strategy may work well for one individual, many opt to increase their chances of getting relief by using several different treatment options at the same time.
- Medication in the form of antidepressants, anti-seizure, and even opioid analgesic medications may also be prescribed. However, when it comes to drugs, caution is warranted. Not only can the patient develop a dependence on the drug but there could also be several side effects that you may have to contend with as well.
Every patient will have a different set of symptoms, which will require a different approach to the treatment. While there is no definitive cure for neuropathy there are ways to get relief from the pain. Whether you want to embrace the products offered by pharmaceutical companies or you're interested in the all-natural approach, finding the best possible treatment to help you to manage your symptoms is essential in getting the kind of relief you need.
Being able to manage your symptoms may be the very way to keep the pain at bay. The best way to do this is to address the underlying cause of the condition. In most cases, your doctor can easily identify your type of neuropathy but there are quite a few with apparently no logical reason. When that happens, learning your symptoms and how your body reacts can be the key to finding the help you need to fight back a flare-up.
For those who would prefer to go the all natural way there are dietary supplements like Nerve Renew, which is a combination of herbs, vitamins, and antioxidants prepared specifically to treat and even possibly reverse the symptoms of neuropathy.