What is Neuropathy?
Peripheral nerves are the nerves that branch out from the spinal cord and connect the brain to all parts of the body. Peripheral nerves are fragile and can be easily damaged by many factors such as systemic illness, infections, alcoholism, autoimmune diseases, exposure to toxins and injuries or fractures. Neuropathy affects more than 2 million Americans at any given time. Diabetes is one of the most common causes of neuropathy.
No matter what caused the neuropathy, the symptoms are the same. Neuropathy initially manifests itself as a tingling in the toes which gradually spreads up the feet or hands and worsens into a burning pain. The sensations, whether tingling or pain, can be either constant or periodic. A person with neuropathy can also experience muscle weakness or numbness.
Diabetic Neuropathy Neuropathy is among the one of the most common complications of diabetes. Over time, diabetic neuropathy may occur in up to 50% of diabetics, despite controlling blood sugar. Once it occurs and without treatment, it almost always gets worse.
Diabetic neuropathy usually affects the feet first and then the hands. It starts with sensory changes such as numbness or tingling in the toes. At first these symptoms come and go, but then they become constant. Over a long period of time, the person may experience such a loss of sensation that he might not feel how tight his shoes are, know whether the bath water is hot or cold, or whether or not he has injured himself.
Changes in muscle strength also occur, possibly causing the diabetic to fall or the arches of his feet to collapse. Diabetic neuropathy is the leading cause of ulcerations and infections in the feet, and in advanced cases, amputation.