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The Link Between Diabetes and Neuropathy

If you have diabetes, or even prediabetes, you’re at an incredibly high risk of neuropathy. How high? Diabetes is the single largest cause of peripheral neuropathy, and 60-70% of all diabetic patients develop multiple neuropathies.

Our team at Florida Pain Medicine offers comprehensive support for neuropathy, including advanced therapies that provide much-needed relief from neuropathic pain. Call us if you have any questions about neuropathy. Until then, here’s what you should know about the link between diabetes and neuropathy.

Diabetes and the high risk of neuropathy

Neuropathy is an umbrella term that includes any type of disease or injury affecting your nerves. There are a vast number of possible causes, ranging from autoimmune diseases, kidney, and liver disease to vitamin deficiencies, hormone imbalances, and infections.

Of all the possible conditions, diabetes is the single largest cause of nerve damage. Half of all patients with Type 2 diabetes and 20% of those with Type 1 diabetes have a specific type called diabetic peripheral neuropathy.

If you’re diagnosed with diabetes, or know someone who is, here’s one more piece of information to alert you to the incredibly high risk for neuropathy: Nerve damage starts earlier than you may realize. In one study, about half of patients who were newly diagnosed with prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes had early signs of peripheral neuropathy.

How diabetes causes neuropathy

High levels of blood sugar damage your nerves. The experts are still working hard to untangle the complex biochemical processes that lead from high blood sugar to nerves with such severe damage they can’t function. However, there’s no doubt that if you don’t keep your blood sugar within a normal range, you’re likely to develop one of several types of neuropathy:

Peripheral neuropathy

The most common type of diabetic neuropathy, this condition typically affects your feet and legs first, followed by your arms and hands. You may experience numbness, but peripheral neuropathy is notorious for causing pain, tingling, and increased sensitivity to touch. Beyond pain, slow-healing foot ulcers are one of the biggest dangers of peripheral neuropathy.

Autonomic neuropathy

This type of neuropathy affects the nerves that control your internal organs, like your heart, bladder, stomach, and intestines. The symptoms you’ll experience depend on which part of your body is controlled by the damaged nerves. You may experience excessive sweating, a rapid heart rate, nausea, or difficulty controlling your body temperature, to name only a few.

Focal neuropathy or mononeuropathy

Though most types of diabetic neuropathy affect multiple nerves, only one specific nerve is damaged if you develop focal neuropathy. Focal neuropathy strikes suddenly and typically causes severe pain. You may develop this type of neuropathy in any part of your body, including your face and eyes.

Preventing diabetic neuropathy

The encouraging news about diabetic neuropathy is that it’s largely preventable by taking steps to keep your blood sugar in a normal range. Tight glucose control requires a holistic approach that includes lifestyle changes and medications.

Lifestyle changes are especially important because the foods you eat, whether or not you get regular exercise, and your body weight significantly affect blood sugar levels. Your overall lifestyle also influences other health problems, like hypertension and high cholesterol, that raise your risk for neuropathy above the usual risk associated with diabetes.

Treating the pain of diabetic neuropathy

Once diabetic neuropathy develops, it typically causes pain that you may experience as sharp and stabbing, or more like a burning sensation, especially in your fingers and toes. When you face nerve-related pain, we can help with customized treatment that draws from a variety of advanced therapies.

We offer numerous interventional procedures, including platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections, stem cell therapy, nerve blocks, epidural injections, and neuromodulation such as spinal cord stimulation

If you have any questions or if you'd like to learn more about your options for relieving neuropathic pain, call Florida Pain Medicine, or schedule an appointment online today.

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