You can suffer nerve damage for several reasons, like injuries, infections, chronic diseases, smoking, and viruses, but one of the leading causes is diabetes, and its primary symptom is pain.
Fortunately, relieving pain is our specialty at Regency Pain & Therapy Institute. We help people with diabetes throughout Mansfield, Texas, and beyond manage their neuropathy and live life pain-free. Here, our team explains why diabetes makes you more prone to developing neuropathy and how we can help.
High blood sugar and nerve damage
Neuropathy, or nerve damage, affects half of all people with diabetes. That’s a sobering statistic you should pay attention to if you have this disease. The more you understand the link between diabetes and neuropathy, the better equipped you’ll be to prevent it and recognize the signs if nerve damage develops.
Diabetes affects how your body makes and processes the hormone insulin, which affects how your body changes food into usable energy. Here’s how it works. After a meal, your body turns the food into sugar and sends that sugar (also called glucose) into your bloodstream. When the sugar level reaches a certain point, your pancreas produces insulin to unlock your cells and allow a transfer of glucose from your blood to your cells.
However, diabetes hinders your insulin production and/or makes your cells resistant to it, and without proper insulin levels to facilitate the sugar transfer, the sugar stays in your blood. High blood sugar is a huge health problem. Also called hyperglycemia, high blood sugar leads to dehydration and permanent damage to your eyes, blood vessels, and organs.
One of the most common complications of hyperglycemia is nerve damage, which is why diabetics are more prone than others to develop neuropathy.
Symptoms of diabetic neuropathy
Diabetic neuropathy typically comes on gradually and usually begins in the feet. It may start as a mild tingling or pins-and-needles sensation. When the damage progresses, you may experience:
- Burning sensations
- Stabbing pain
- Loss of coordination
These symptoms in your feet and legs are signs of peripheral neuropathy — damage that affects your peripheral nervous system. But diabetes can also damage other types of nerves that affect your digestive system, eyes, heart, sexual organs, bladder, and bowels.
For these reasons, you must work closely with your physician to control your blood sugar and check your feet and legs daily to monitor them for sensitivity and signs of injury or damage.
In addition to pain, diabetic neuropathy can cause a complete lack of sensation in your extremities, making it nearly impossible to detect wounds, cuts, and blisters without visual inspection.
Treating diabetic neuropathy
All treatments for diabetic neuropathy start with a commitment to controlling your blood sugar through diet and medication if necessary.
However, when it comes to pain associated with diabetic neuropathy, our specialists offer a wide range of effective treatments. About 1 in 4 diabetics experience painful diabetic neuropathy, and once the nerves are damaged, the treatment goal is to manage the pain.
Depending on the type of neuropathy, the severity of the symptoms, and your individual health and lifestyle, your treatment may include:
- Regenerative medicine, such as platelet-rich plasma or stem cell injections
- Topical numbing cream
- Lidocaine patches
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
- Physical therapy
Medication also plays a critical role in your pain management. Again, depending on your circumstances, we might advise over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen. Antidepressants have also been shown to reduce diabetic neuropathy pain.
To break free from diabetic neuropathy pain, call Regency Pain & Therapy Institute at 817-345-6225.