What is diabetic neuropathy?
Diabetic neuropathy is nerve damage that happens in people with diabetes. It is more common in men than in women.
People with diabetic neuropathy can have numbness (loss of feeling), tingling, or pain in different parts of their body.
Most often, the nerves and skin of the feet are affected. Diabetic neuropathy also can affect other nerves and areas of skin, blood vessels, and the heart, bowel, bladder, or genitals.
What causes diabetic neuropathy?
If your blood sugar levels are high, you are more likely to get diabetic neuropathy. Over time, high blood sugar levels damage blood vessels and nerves.
What can I do to keep from getting diabetic neuropathy?
Treatment of diabetes can delay or prevent diabetic neuropathy. Here are some things you can do:
* Learn as much as you can about diabetes and how to control the disease. Work with your doctor to set goals, such as better blood sugar control and getting more exercise.
* Keep your blood sugar levels within your goal.
* Learn how a healthy diet and exercise can lower your blood sugar levels.
* If you have high blood pressure or a high cholesterol level, take your medicine. Tell your doctor if you cannot take your medicines in the way they are prescribed.
* If you are overweight, ask your doctor what you can do to lose weight.
* Do not use alcohol or tobacco. Record keeping is important:
* Keep a list of all medicines, supplements (such as vitamins), and herbal products that you take. Write down how much and how often you take them.
* If you take insulin, keep a record of what type, how much, and when you take it.
* Write down your home blood sugar measurements. Also, write down things that upset your blood sugar level, such as certain foods or illness.
* Bring your medicine list, blood sugar record, and insulin record with you when you see your doctor.
What will happen if the nerves in my legs and feet are damaged?
If there is nerve damage, you may not be able to feel an injury in your legs and feet. You also may have tingling or pain. Your muscles may become weaker and smaller. You may have trouble walking.
The skin on your feet may get dry and cracked. You may get sores on your feet. Diabetes makes sores hard to heal.
What can I do to prevent foot problems from diabetic neuropathy?
It is important to keep tight control of your blood sugar levels. You also need to keep your feet healthy (see table).
COPYRIGHT 2005 American Academy of Family Physicians
COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group