Understanding Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy

Physiotherapy

Peripheral Neuropathy

WHAT IS DIABETIC PERIPHERAL NEUROPATHY?

Diabetic peripheral neuropathy is nerve damage that is caused by diabetes.

WHAT DOES NEUROPATHY MEAN?

“Neuro” = Nerve

“Pathy” = Disorder

IS IT COMMON?

Diabetes is the most common cause of neuropathy.
Approximately half of all people with diabetes will develop neuropathy.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?

Symptoms can vary from person to person, but may include numbness, pins and needles, tingling, discomfort, or weakness, which usually begin in both feet and spread symmetrically up the legs (like stockings).
About half of those people with diabetic neuropathy experience significant pain in their feet and increased sensitivity to painful stimuli (known as neuropathic pain or painful neuropathy). Neuropathic pain is often worse at night.


HOW CAN IT EFFECT MY HEALTH?

These symptoms can have a major effect on health and wellbeing because:

– Numbness and weakness in the feet and legs can create difficulty with balance. Balance problems increase the risk of falls.
– Weakness leads to deformities in the feet, like claw or hammer toes, and bunions.
– Numbness means damage to the feet may go unnoticed. Together, these can lead to the formation of a foot ulcer (a breakdown of the skin and tissues of the feet and ankles and can get infected).

WHAT CAUSES IT?

Over time, high blood sugar levels (blood glucose), and high levels of fats in the blood from diabetes can damage your nerves. Good blood sugar control in people with type 1 diabetes can reduce neuropathy by 60 per cent.

HOW IS IT DIAGNOSED?

Diagnosis may include:

– Taking a medical history for symptoms typical of neuropathy.
– Checking your feet and legs for responses to stimuli such as temperature, light touch, pain, movement and vibration.
– Checking the reflexes at your ankles and knees.
– Tests to exclude other possible causes of neuropathy (such as low vitamin B1 or thiamine levels).

HOW CAN I PREVENT IT?

Suggestions to reduce the risk of diabetic neuropathy include:

– Maintain blood glucose sugar within the target ranges
– Regular exercise
– Maintenance of a healthy weight
– Cessation of smoking
– Eating a healthy, balanced diet
– Reduce blood pressure and lipid (fat) levels through diet, lifestyle changes, and medication where appropriate
– Seeing your doctor promptly if you have symptoms including pain, numbness or tingling in your hands or feet.
– Have your feet checked at least yearly by your doctor, podiatrist or diabetes educator, or more often if you have signs of problems with your feet or other complications of your diabetes.

WHAT IS THE TREATMENT?

Damaged nerves cannot be repaired. However, the risk of further complications in the feet can be reduced by:

– Regular self inspection of your feet for signs such as breaks in skin, signs of infection or deformity.
– Seeking early medical assistance at the first sign of symptoms – early treatment of foot ulcers gives the best chance that they will heal.
– Maintaining good nail and foot hygiene.
– Wearing good quality socks and selecting shoes that are fitted appropriately to the shape of your foot.
– Avoiding activities that may injure the feet. Check shoes for stones, sticks and other foreign objects that might hurt your feet every time before putting your shoes on.
– Seeking pain management strategies such as medication prescribed by your doctor to ease painful neuropathy.

HOW CAN PHYSIOTHERAPY HELP?

Physiotherapy treatment through exercise and strength training can be helpful to improve muscle function, reduce neuropathic pain, help control blood sugar levels and promote weight loss. Healthproof home visit physiotherapy can make it even easier for you by providing this service to you at home to help to increase balance, improve walking patterns, reducing the risk of falls and injury, and increasing independence, confidence and quality of life.

HOW CAN PODIATRY HELP?

Healthproof’s mobile home visit podiatry team can help by maintaining and improving foot health; skin, circulation and nerve health; ulcers blisters and infections, nail careorthotics or suitable footwear and education all in the comfort of your own home.

WHERE DO I GO FROM HERE?

Get in contact with us at Healthproof if you would like more information or need help with diabetic peripheral neuropathy.

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