The nervous system can be likened to electrical wiring. Nerves are specialized cells that transmit tiny electrical currents throughout the body. Nerves detect sensations of heat, cold, and pain.
If you step on a pin, the automatic response is to get away from pain as soon as possible. Nerves can be damaged by high blood glucose levels, leading to loss of sensation. If this happens, you may not feel heat or pain so may injure yourself and cause damage without being aware of it.
Loss of sensation can lead to ulceration in the skin and this can allow an infection to develop in the tissues in the foot, including the bones. If there is also damage to the blood supply, the essential nutrients cannot be delivered and so healing is impaired.
In some cases, this can lead to extensive infection and tissue damage that requires amputation. The good news is that amputations can be prevented by good diabetes and blood pressure control along with a regular foot exam to check the sensation and blood circulation.
Nerves are found throughout the body and can affect many functions, notably erectile dysfunction for which treatment such as Viagra is available.
People who have attended the Diabetes Reversal Program have reported that symptoms of nerve disease such as numbness and tingling in their feet, and erectile dysfunction, have improved with better control of blood glucose levels Diabetic neuropathy can be a serious diabetes complication that can result in amputations.
But you can often prevent diabetic neuropathy or slow its progress with consistent blood-sugar management and a healthy lifestyle. There are four main types of neuropathy that can impact the nervous system, including:
This is the most common type of diabetic neuropathy. It commonly affects the feet and legs first, followed by the hands and arms. Symptoms are varied, and can be mild to severe, and are often worse at night. They include:
- muscle weakness
- Tingling or burning sensation
- Sharp pains or cramps
- Increased sensitivity to touch
- Serious foot problems, such as ulcers, infections, and bone and joint pain
It is difficult to feel a sore or injury and when coupled with a state of reduced perfusion, the likelihood of a silent infection is increased.
The autonomic nervous system runs other systems in your body over which you have no conscious control such as your heart, bladder, stomach, intestines, sex organs, and eyes. Diabetes can affect nerves in any of these areas, possibly causing:
- A decreased sexual response such as erectile dysfunction, vaginal dryness, or difficulty achieving orgasm
- Increased heart rate and palpitations (sensation of one’s own heartbeat)
- Bladder problems such as frequent urination and incomplete bladder emptying
- Bowel problems such as Slow stomach emptying causing one to feel full too quickly and be unable to finish a meal resulting in nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite
- Changes in the way your eyes adjust from light to dark
- Profuse sweating
This type of neuropathy often affects nerves in the thighs, hips, buttocks, or legs. It can also affect the abdominal and chest area. Symptoms are usually on one side of the body but may spread to the other side. They include:
- Severe pain in a hip and thigh or buttock
- Eventual weak and shrinking thigh muscles
- Difficulty rising from a sitting position
- Severe stomach pain
This refers to damage to a specific nerve. It can be classified as being cranial (nerve originating directly from the brain) or peripheral in nature. Symptoms of damage include but are not limited to:
- Difficulty focusing or double vision
- Aching behind one eye
- Drooping of skin on one side of your face (Bell’s palsy)
- Numbness or tingling in your hand or fingers
- Weakness in your hand that may cause you to drop things- almost a quarter of diabetics will develop a painful wrist due to carpal tunnel syndrome (nerve compression at the wrist)
- Uncontrolled blood sugar control
- Being a Smoker
- Increased duration of diabetes diagnosis
- History of Kidney disease
Proven strategies to reduce the risk of developing diabetic nephropathy include:
- Keen foot care: wear loose-fitting open shoes, daily observation of feet for sores, keep your feet clean and dry, oil your feet, trim your toenails carefully and wear clean, dry socks
- Lifestyle management: Healthy diets (low carb diet)and maintain a healthy weight
- The strict control of blood sugars
- The strict control of blood pressure
- Avoiding Alcohol and Smoking
- Regular recommended screening tests for diabetic patient.