The term diabetic neuropathy is used to indicate damage caused to the nerves as a result of diabetes. It is a common complication of diabetes, which can cause significant health problems and complications. Diabetes can affect any nerve such as peripheral nerves, autonomic nerves or the proximal parts of the nerves at any time throughout the body. The four main types of diabetic neuropathy include:
Symptoms that surface by way of diabetic neuropathy may last depending on the type of nerve involved.
Peripheral neuropathy is the most common type of diabetic neuropathy, which is caused due to damage to the ends of long nerves (peripheral nerves) in the toes, feet, legs, hands and arms. It causes loss of pain and sensation, which is usually long-lasting and progressive. Peripheral neuropathy is more common in people with poor glycemic or blood sugar control. The major complication of peripheral neuropathy is chronic foot ulcers and foot amputation. Most foot problems and complications can be prevented by having a comprehensive foot exam at least once a year and good foot care at home.
Diabetic autonomic neuropathy affects the nerves that control involuntary functions such as heart rate, regulate blood pressure and control blood glucose levels. It can affect other internal organs as well leading to symptoms related to digestion, respiratory function, urination, sexual response and vision. The complication is more common in people with poorly controlled blood sugar. In the early stages, it may be reversed with good blood sugar control. Autonomic neuropathy can be prevented by keeping your blood sugar levels well controlled and following your doctor’s advice with regards lifestyle changes (diet, exercise and weight).
Mononeuropathy is usually sudden in onset. It can cause severe and sharp pain, but in most cases, it doesn't cause any long-term problem as the symptoms may reduce and disappear in some time (over few weeks or months) and can be controlled with medications and good control of blood sugar. Diabetic amyotrophy (diabetic proximal neuropathy) is usually reversible and tends to gradually improve with time and good blood sugar control. Some people may be left with varying degrees of disability due to residual weakness or discomfort.
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