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Patients with diabetes are likely to suffer from nerve damage. This condition is known as diabetic neuropathy. An increase in the blood-sugar level can damage nerve fibres, especially in the legs and feet. Diabetic neuropathy is a common complication for people suffering from diabetes.
Types of neuropathy
- Peripheral neuropathy: This is the most frequently occurring form of diabetic neuropathy. It can affect the legs, feet, hands and arms of a person. Some of the common symptoms include numbness in the leg or arm, cramps, reduced reflexes and muscle weakness. This is accompanied by other problems such as joint pain, ulcers, and deformities.
- Autonomic neuropathy: This part of the nervous system controls the intestines, heart, stomach, lungs, eyes and sex organs. Diabetes can wreak havoc in these vital organs. Some of the common symptoms include bladder problems, vomiting, nausea, erectile malfunction, fluctuation in body temperature, decreased or increased sweating, and irregular heart rate.
- Radiculoplexus neuropathy: This form of neuropathy affects the nerves in areas such as the thighs, legs, buttocks, etc. This condition is mostly witnessed in people suffering from type 2 diabetes. The symptoms are often observed on one side of the body, which includes abdominal swelling, pain in the thigh, hip and buttock, weight loss, difficulty in getting up from a particular position.
- Mononeuropathy: This form of neuropathy attacks a particular nerve and is mostly found in older adults. It doesn’t have any long-term implications. Some of the symptoms include paralysis of the face, pain in the chest, difficulty in focusing the eye, and pain in the foot.
Risk factors of diabetic neuropathy
- Being overweight: An increase in body weight increases the chances of diabetic neuropathy. A body mass index (BMI) of greater than 24 is considered to be alarming for a patient suffering with diabetes.
- Smoking: Smoking narrows the arteries, thereby reducing the flow of blood to the feet and the legs. This increases the chance of diabetic neuropathy.
- Kidney disease: Diabetes can cause great damage to the kidneys, which increases the level of toxins in the body. This situation can aggravate to diabetic neuropathy.
- Poor control of blood-sugar levels: A poor control of blood-sugar levels is the biggest risk factor of diabetic neuropathy. Keeping the blood-sugar level under control helps the nerves to maintain a healthy condition.
Common complications of diabetic neuropathy
- Digestive problems: Nerve damage can lead to diseases such as diarrhoea, bloating, nausea, vomiting and a loss of appetite. It can also result in a disease called gastroparesis; this is a disease which doesn’t let the stomach empty at its usual rate.
- Limb loss: Gradual nerve damage can affect the limbs of the body. Diabetic neuropathy slowly damages the soft tissues and the skin, which eventually results in the loss of a limb.