January 17, 2012

Diabetic Neuropathy – Part 2

Knowing how to manage your diabetes helps prevent many of the complications of neuropathy. In other words, know how to tightly manage your blood glucose levels. It is also important to know when to see your doctor when there are signs and symptoms of neuropathy as discussed in my previous blog.

The signs and symptoms may not always indicate neuropathy damage; however, they may be an indication of other problems that require medical care. This is where many people make a mistake of thinking – oh this is really nothing and do not seek the medical advice they should have sought. Then it can be too late and damage can be done that can cause more serious problems.

Read the article here for more detail and follow the advice to prevent more severe problems. The damage to nerves and blood vessels can be caused by several variables, and chief among them for those of us with diabetes is prolonged exposure to high blood glucose levels. High blood glucose can damage delicate nerve fibers, causing diabetic neuropathy.

While the exact reasons are not fully understood, a combination of variables are likely involved. High blood glucose interferes with the nerve communications and it weakens the walls of the small blood vessels (capillaries) that supply the nerves with oxygen and nutrients. Other variables that may contribute as well include inflammation in the nerves, genetic factors, and smoking and alcohol abuse.

If you have diabetes, you can develop neuropathy and there are variables that make you more likely to have nerve damage. Topping the list is poor blood glucose management followed by the length of time a person has had diabetes, but do not forget that people with type 2 diabetes sometimes develop peripheral neuropathy before diagnosis. Kidney disease and smoking are also risk factors for neuropathy.

The complications of diabetic neuropathy include loss of a limb, charcot joint, urinary tract infections and urinary incontinence. Low blood pressure can be caused by neuropathy, as can digestive problems. When you feel faint or dizzy when coming to a standing position can be the result of low blood pressure and should be looked after by a doctor. Digestive problems can cause what seems a myriad of problems, from constipation to diarrhea and nausea, vomiting, bloating, and loss of appetite.

Autonomic neuropathy often damages the nerves that affect the sex organs in men and women. This leads to erectile dysfunction in men and problems with lubrication and arousal in women. Neuropathy can also cause the sweat glands to not function properly so your body is not able to regulate body temperature properly. This can be life threatening. Even worse, for the elderly, neuropathy caused pain, disability, and embarrassment – robbing them of their independence, leaving them increasingly isolated and depressed.

More serious is hypoglycemia unawareness. Normally when your blood glucose level drops below 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) or 3.9 millimoles per liter (mmol/L) you develop symptoms like shakiness, sweating, and an increase in heart rate. These alert you to the problem so that you can take steps to raise your blood glucose quickly. Autonomic neuropathy may interfere with your ability to have these symptoms. This is extremely dangerous as hypoglycemia can be fatal.

Next blog is about seeing your doctor. Part 2 of 5.

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