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Symptoms of Diabetic Neuropathy

Diabetic neuropathy has various forms...there are four classes, or subtypes.

The first subtype is Autonomic neuropathy.  This can affect the heart, blood vessels, GI tract, urinary tract, sex organs, sweat glands, eyes, and lungs. Autonomic neuropathy causes changes in digestion, bowel and bladder function, sexual response, and perspiration. Also affected are the nerves of the heart, and control blood pressure, as well as nerves in the lungs and eyes. Autonomic neuropathy can also trigger  hypoglycemia unawareness, a condition in which people no longer experience the warning symptoms of low blood glucose levels.

The second subtype  is known as Focal neuropathy.  Affected body parts include eyes, facial muscles, ears, pelvis/low back, chest, abdomen, thighs, legs and feet. Patients with this subtype experience sudden muscle weakness or pain. Literally any body part can be affected.

The third subtype  is known as Proximal neuropathy.  This problem causes pain in the hips, buttocks, thighs, or legs.

The fourth and final subtype is known as Peripheral neuropathy.  This is the most common subtype, and a common cause of chronic pain in the diabetic population.  Peripheral neuropathy expresses itself as numbness, tingling, or pain in the arms, fingers, toes, legs, and/or feet.  This is due to nerve damage.  These patients experience symptoms such as

  • numbness or insensitivity to pain or temperature
  • a tingling, burning, or prickling sensation
  • sharp pains or cramps
  • extreme sensitivity to touch, even light touch
  • loss of balance and coordination.
Sadly, over time these patients can loose their reflexes, their gait can be affected in such a way that foot deformities can occur. Nerve damage can prevent the affected from awareness to heat or cold, leading to tissue damage from burns or frostbite.   Serious health issues like broken bones or infection can be present unbeknownst to the patient due to loss of sensation. 
 Source: NIH 

Tomorrow: diagnosis and treatment of diabetic neuropathy


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