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Nerve Damage to Feet or Diabetic Neuropathy

By: Jo Johnson - Updated: 2 Jan 2013 | comments*Discuss
Diabetic Neuropathy; Neurovascular

For those suffering with diabetes the effects on the body can be very worrying. Not only do they have to be careful about diet, blood sugars and medications, but they must be vigilant about many others areas of their life and body, including that of the feet.

What is Diabetic Neuropathy?

Neuropathy can be described as any damage or compromise to the way in which the nerve supply to an area becomes reduced or damaged in some way. In diabetic neuropathy, this term is applied to those who suffer from nerve damage as a result of their diabetes.The nerve damage can occur anywhere in the body, but is often seen as deterioration in the tissues of the feet and lower limb.

Why Does Diabetes Have an Effect On Feet?

There are a number of possible reasons why diabetes can affect the nerve supply of the feet, and these reasons can range from metabolic reasons, autoimmune factors, neurovascular complications and lifestyle choices.

Metabolic Factors

Insecure or poorly controlled blood sugars and insulin levels are thought to have a profound effect on the function and supply of nerves within the feet.

Autoimmune Factors

It is also possible that any problems with the body’s immune system, such as underlying or existing infections can cause the nerve supply to become compromised.

Neurovascular Issues

The domain includes any damage that has occurred to the blood vessels that supply the nerves. This damage may have caused a reduction in the amount of oxygen and nutrients sent to the nerves causing them to function poorly.

Lifestyle Choices

Being overweight and smoking can cause damage to not only the nerves but to the blood supply as well causing these structures and their functions to become compromised.

Who is The Most at Risk?

Those who are most at risk of developing diabetic neuropathy include:
  • Those who have been suffering from diabetes for over ten years
  • Those who do not have adequate control of their blood sugars and insulin levels
  • Those who are over weight
  • Those who smoke
  • Those who do not follow a healthy diet as recommended by the specialist.

Signs and Symptoms

Diabetic neuropathy, as seen in the feet, can be most obviously diagnosed if the individual has noticed a reduction in sensation of the tissues. Numbness and tingling are all common signs of nerve damage, and if the blood supply has become damaged also, the tissues may appear discoloured as they do not have enough red blood cells and oxygen.

Some may experience a burning sensation and others may find they have sharp pains. Often these symptoms will become worse at night.

Treatment Options

As with all illnesses prevention is better than cure and it is essential to maintain good foot care practices, especially in the presence of diabetes.It is extremely important to ensure blood sugar and insulin levels are controlled to the best of your ability. Speak to your specialist for more information and discussion on how this can be achieved.

Regular visits to the chiropodist will allow for any foot complaints to be treated as soon as they are suspected and they will also be able to assess for signs or reduced sensation.If you have noticed any discolouration or reduction in sensation, report this to your GP immediately as the tissues can deteriorate extremely quickly.

Always keep feet protected to prevent trauma occurring, which can lead to sores and ulcers developing which can be very difficult to treat.

Diabetic neuropathy is a very serious side effect and risk to those living with diabetes. It is essential to follow all medical and dietary advice in order to prevent complications from occurring. If any problems are encountered, it is vital that they are managed as soon as possible to prevent long-term tissue damage.

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