If you’re among the more than 37 million Americans (11% of the overall population) with diabetes, you need to be on high alert for complications. At the head of the list is diabetes-related peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage), which affects up to half of people with diabetes.
Since November is National Diabetes Month, our team of foot health experts at Neuhaus Foot and Ankle wants to focus on this important topic in our monthly blog posts.
Below, we look at how diabetes damages peripheral nerves in your body and what to watch out for in terms of early warning signs.
Diabetes and your peripheral nerves
When you have diabetes, your body cannot properly regulate glucose levels in your bloodstream due to a lack of insulin or insulin resistance (insulin is a hormone that delivers sugar to your cells).
As a result, you have higher-than-normal sugar levels in your blood, which can damage blood vessels and peripheral nerves, especially those in your legs and feet. Less commonly, peripheral neuropathy related to diabetes can also affect your arms and hands, but we’ll focus on feet since we’re a podiatry practice.
Recognizing peripheral neuropathy
As with most health issues, the key to better managing peripheral neuropathy is recognizing when there’s a problem sooner rather than later. The early signs of nerve damage in your feet and lower legs most often include the following:
As your nerves become damaged, they can misfire, leading to pain. The pain is often described as shooting or burning, but it can also present as a dull ache in your feet and lower limbs. Usually, the pain flares at night when you’re trying to sleep.
Another early sign of peripheral neuropathy is tingling in your feet, often described as pins and needles or other strange sensations that aren’t exactly painful but unpleasant.
The tingling symptoms is often a precursor to numbness, which occurs when the nerve is destroyed to the point where it’s no longer signaling. Areas of numbness can start small but grow in size as the neuropathy progresses.
Getting help for peripheral neuropathy
We’re emphasizing early detection because once the nerve is affected, it’s difficult to reverse the damage. So, our goal is to recognize the problem as early as possible so we can manage the existing neuropathy while preventing the issue from progressing.
Believe us when we say that getting the right team in your corner is paramount if you have peripheral neuropathy, as this condition can set the stage for amputation if you’re not careful.
For expert care of your peripheral neuropathy, please contact one of our 14 locations in Tennessee to schedule an appointment with one of our diabetic foot care specialists.