Why Diabetics Are at Risk of Peripheral Neuropathy

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Why Diabetics Are at Risk of Peripheral Neuropathy

One of the complications often accompanying diabetes is peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage).

The peripheral nerves exist outside the spinal cord, relaying signals to and from the brain that control sensation, movement, and functions like blood pressure and bladder function.

While anyone can experience peripheral neuropathy, people with diabetes are particularly vulnerable to this debilitating condition. Symptoms usually start in the feet, including tingling, numbness, burning pain, and skin changes.

Dr. Ravi Panjabi and our team at Advanced Pain Management in Castro Valley, California, provide integrative pain management services to teens and adults. One of our many specialties is diagnosing and treating peripheral neuropathy.

Read more from our team regarding the relationship between diabetes and peripheral neuropathy and how we can help.

The link between diabetes and peripheral neuropathy

There are several ways diabetes can impact your peripheral nerves, including:

Elevated blood sugar levels

Diabetes is characterized by elevated blood sugar (glucose). Prolonged periods of high blood sugar can lead to peripheral nerve damage. 

The exact mechanism isn't fully understood, but it's believed elevated glucose levels contribute to oxidative stress and inflammation, damaging nerve fibers over time.

Poor circulation

Diabetes can lead to vascular complications, affecting blood circulation throughout the body. 

Adequate blood flow is crucial for the health of nerves, as they rely on a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients. Reduced blood flow can deprive nerves of essential elements, contributing to nerve damage.

Advanced glycation end products (AGEs)

Elevated blood sugar levels can lead to the formation of AGEs. These compounds can accumulate in nerve tissues, interfering with normal nerve function. AGEs are believed to play a role in the development and progression of peripheral neuropathy in people with diabetes.

Inflammation and autoimmune response

Chronic inflammation is a common feature of diabetes. The inflammatory response can damage nerves directly or trigger an autoimmune response where the immune system attacks the body's tissues, including nerves. This damage can contribute to peripheral neuropathy.

Neurovascular factors

The intricate network of small arteries that supply nerves, known as the vasa nervorum, is vital for nerve health. Diabetes can adversely affect these blood vessels, compromising the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to nerves.

This compromise in neurovascular function is a contributing factor to peripheral neuropathy.

Preventing peripheral neuropathy

While the connection between diabetes and peripheral neuropathy is clear, there are steps individuals with diabetes can take to manage their risk:

Blood sugar control

Maintaining optimal blood sugar levels through medication, diet, and lifestyle changes is paramount in preventing and managing peripheral neuropathy.

Regular monitoring

Regular checkups with health care providers to monitor blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and other relevant markers can help in early detection and intervention.

Healthy lifestyle

Adopting a healthy lifestyle, including a nutritionally sound diet, regular exercise, and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, can positively impact nerve health.

Foot care

People with diabetes should pay special attention to foot care, as peripheral neuropathy often affects the feet first. Regular inspection, proper hygiene, and appropriate footwear can prevent complications.

Annual exams with a podiatrist (foot specialist), sooner if you develop symptoms, are often recommended for individuals with diabetes.

Managing peripheral neuropathy

There’s no known cure for diabetic peripheral neuropathy, but there’s much Dr. Panjabi and our Advanced Pain Management team can do to help manage your symptoms.

Based on your initial evaluation results, your individualized treatment strategy may include oral medications, physical therapy to help improve balance and mobility, and other conservative therapies that enhance your quality of life.

Schedule a visit at Advanced Pain Management by calling the office or requesting an appointment online.