Peripheral neuropathy is a common complication of diabetes that affects many individuals, although not everyone who has diabetes will develop this condition.
There are certain internal and external factors that can increase one's likelihood of developing peripheral neuropathy, making it a specific illness associated with diabetes.
To understand peripheral neuropathy in diabetes, it is helpful to imagine that the nerves are damaged due to the microangiopathy or destruction of small blood vessels caused by the disease.
The blood supply to the nerves becomes impaired, leading to a lack of vital nutrients and oxygen needed for proper nerve function.
Additionally, the myelin covering the nerves can also become damaged, which blocks the impulses that the nerve conducts, resulting in the loss of communication between the nervous system and other tissues.
In most cases of diabetic neuropathy, the distal nerves located in the feet are the most commonly affected. This is why the first symptoms often manifest in the feet, such as a loss of sensitivity or a decrease in tactile sensation.
Individuals with peripheral neuropathy may not feel pain, leading to an increased risk of limb damage.
However, deep sensations, such as the ability to feel vibration, are typically preserved.
As a result, people with peripheral neuropathy do not experience a loss of balance as those with brain injuries might, and their motor functions remain intact.
It is important for individuals with diabetes to be aware of the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy listed above.
Early recognition of these symptoms can lead to prompt treatment, which can help protect nerves from further damage.
The loss of tactile sensitivity, particularly in the lower extremities and thumb, is often the first sign of this complication, which can progress to a loss of sensitivity to pain, tactile touch, and temperature.
Fortunately, with proper therapy and medical care, diabetic peripheral neuropathy is a complication that can be managed and regulated.
It is important to work closely with a healthcare provider to develop a treatment plan that can help prevent the progression of peripheral neuropathy and minimize its impact on daily life.
For those with diabetes, being aware of the risk factors and symptoms of peripheral neuropathy is an important step in managing the disease and maintaining optimal health.
Written by Dr.Albana Greca Sejdini, Md, MMedSc
Medically reviewed by Dr.Ruden Cakoni, MD, Endocrinologist
Last reviewed 2/25/2023Beat Diabetes › Diabetes Complications › Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy