January 19, 2012

Diabetic Neuropathy – Part 4

In case you are not aware of this, diabetic neuropathy has no known cure. Treatment focuses on slowing the progression of the disease, relieving the pain, and managing the complications.

As you should know, management of your blood glucose readings is important. Maintaining these in a narrow range is the best solution for slowing the progression of neuropathy. I will give you the American Diabetes Association's (ADA's) recommendations, which I think are too lax.

They claim this is intense management.
Time                                                           ADA                       Rest of the World
Blood glucose level before meals               70 to 130 mg/dl          3.9 to 7.2 mmol/L
Blood glucose level two hours after meals  less than 180 mg/dl    10 mmol/L
after meals
Hemoglobin A1c less than                          7 percent

People that do not have diabetes generally maintain an A1c between 4 and 6 percent. To help slow nerve damage be sure to follow the recommendations of your doctor for good foot care and keep your blood pressure where it should be. Also, follow a healthy food plan, get plenty of exercise, if needed, get to a healthy weight, and avoid smoking and alcohol.

How do you effectively get pain relief from diabetic neuropathy? There are several medications that are used to relieve nerve pain, but they do not work for everyone. They also have to be weighed against the side effects and balanced to the benefits offered. This is the most difficult part of finding what works for you most efficiently and may require some trial and error.

Some of the prescription medications that may be prescribed include the following: anti-seizure medications, antidepressants, lidocaine patch, and opioids. You may read about them here. There are a few alternative therapies, such as capsaicin cream and acupuncture that may help with pain relief. Doctors do use them with prescribed medications, but some can be effective on their own.

Other neuropathy complications can have specific treatments for restoring functions. Urinary tract problems for both men and women have specific treatments and can have a combination of therapies that can be the most effective. Digestive problems can be treated and gastroparesis, diarrhea, constipation, and nausea may be helped with dietary changes and medications.

Low blood pressure on standing can often be helped with lifestyle measures. Medications can also be used alone in combination to treat orthostatic hypertension. There are many alternative medications and devices to help men with erectile dysfunction and women may get help with vaginal lubricants.

There are also lifestyle and home remedies that may help reduce the risk of diabetic neuropathy. First, people with diabetes generally have high blood pressure and with diabetes can greatly increase your risk of complications. It is important to maintain your blood pressure in the range that your doctor recommends. Read the advice of the Mayo Clinic here.

Second, regardless of whether you think your current food choices are healthy, many people find out once they have diabetes that the foods are not as healthy as thought. Make sure that you attempt to eat a balanced diet. Third, if possible, achieve a healthy weight and stay as active as your condition permits. Select an activity that you enjoy and can continue. If possible, try to do at least 30 minutes per day five days per week or 15 minutes seven days per week. Fourth, if you smoke, realize that with diabetes you are more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke. Find ways to stop smoking as this increases your chances of neuropathy.

Finally, do all you are able to tightly manage your diabetes. This will help prevent or delay complications for many years.  Part 4 of 5.

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