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Ways To Prevent Diabetic Neuropathy – 4 Effective Strategies

Nerve damage is a common occurrence, predominantly affecting the nerves in the legs and feet in those with diabetes. In this post, we explain neuropathy in more detail, its cause and symptoms, plus ways to prevent diabetic neuropathy or slow down its onset. Let’s get started!

What is diabetic neuropathy?

Neuropathy is a condition where the nerves become damaged due to elevated blood sugar levels and low-density lipoprotein or "bad" cholesterol in the body. These excess sugars and cholesterol adhere to the walls of small blood vessels, causing them to constrict. This reduced blood flow leads to nerve damage.

Nerves transmit signals between the brain and various body parts. These signals are responsible for:

Nerve damage can cause significant issues in various parts of the body for individuals with type 1, type 2, or other forms of diabetes

There are four main types of diabetic neuropathy which include:

Peripheral neuropathy - involves nerve damage that usually affects the feet and legs, and occasionally the hands and arms.

Autonomic neuropathy - affects the nerves controlling internal organs, potentially causing issues with heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, bladder function, sexual organs, sweat glands, vision, and hypoglycemia detection.

Focal neuropathies - involve damage to single nerves, commonly in the hands, head, torso, or legs.

Proximal neuropathy - an uncommon and debilitating type of nerve damage that affects the hip, buttock, or thigh, typically on one side of the body but can rarely spread to the other side. It often results in severe pain and significant weight loss.

What are the risks of developing diabetic neuropathy?

If you have diabetes, it’s possible to develop nerve problems at any time. Sometimes, neuropathy can be the first sign of diabetes. Significant nerve problems (clinical neuropathy) can develop within the first 10 years after a diabetes diagnosis. The risk of developing neuropathy increases in those patients whose diabetes in uncontrolled and is more likely to occur the longer a patient has diabetes.

Research indicates that up to 50% of people with diabetes experience peripheral neuropathy, and over 30% have autonomic neuropathy. With more than 37 million Americans diagnosed with diabetes and around 96 million adults having prediabetes, neuropathy is a condition impacting millions of individuals.

Now you have a better understanding of the condition, let’s get back to the main topic of this article:

How to prevent diabetic neuropathy – 4 key strategies

Preventing diabetic neuropathy primarily involves maintaining optimal blood sugar levels. Persistent high blood sugar can cause nerve damage over time, so it is crucial to keep glucose levels within target ranges as consistently as possible. This often requires a comprehensive management plan that may include:

Managing high blood pressure and cholesterol is also vital, as these conditions can worsen nerve dysfunction and increase the risk of complications.

Adopting a healthy lifestyle significantly lowers the risk of neuropathy. Here are some effective methods:

  1. Eat a balanced diet

Eating a diet abundant in nutrients from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats is crucial for stabilizing blood sugar levels and enhancing overall health. It's advisable to minimize intake of processed foods, sugary treats, and excessive alcohol. Including antioxidant-rich foods like cranberries, strawberries, and blueberries can effectively reduce inflammation and mitigate nerve damage.

  1. Exercise regularly

Regular physical activity is essential for preventing diabetic neuropathy. Exercise helps control blood sugar, improves circulation, and enhances nerve function. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week.

  1. Watch your weight

Carrying excess weight can lead to insulin resistance and nerve damage. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise can improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the risk of complications.

  1. Stop smoking

Smoking restricts blood vessels and impairs circulation, exacerbating nerve damage and research suggests it may be linked to diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Quitting smoking is crucial for overall health and can help prevent nerve pain and deterioration.

By following these strategies, individuals with diabetes can significantly reduce their risk of developing neuropathy and enhance their quality of life.

How to avoid diabetic neuropathy – Symptoms to watch for

To avoid further nerve damage and its associated complications early detection of the condition is critical. Symptoms to look out for include:

Numbness or tingling - Many individuals experience numbness, tingling, or a pins-and-needles sensation, particularly in the feet and legs. This loss of sensation can increase the risk of unnoticed injuries or wounds.

Burning or sharp pain - Some people may feel burning, stabbing, or shooting pain in the affected areas, which can vary from mild to severe.

Muscle weakness - As neuron damage progresses, weakness or difficulty moving the affected limbs may occur. This is an important consideration for preventing diabetic neuropathy.

Changes in sensation- Damage to neurons can lead to changes in sensation, such as altered temperature perception, difficulty sensing pressure or touch, or the sensation of wearing socks or gloves when you’re not.

Foot problems - Diabetic neuropathy can lead to foot complications, including ulcers, infections, and deformities. These issues arise from a combination of loss of sensation and impaired circulation.

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s vital to visit your healthcare provider promptly.

The importance of managing diabetic neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy can lead to serious foot problems. Patients may not feel injuries on their feet, which can result in untreated wounds becoming infected and potentially leading to amputation. Daily foot checks for cuts, sores, or other wounds, and seeking immediate treatment for any concerns, is crucial.

Complications

Gastroparesis, a condition affecting stomach nerves and causing slow stomach emptying, is another complication. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and bloating, and keeping blood sugar levels healthy can reduce these symptoms. Other complications may include balance challenges and vision problems.

Ways to prevent diabetic neuropathy – Conclusion

You can help avoid diabetic neuropathy by keeping your blood sugar levels within your target range, which will help protect the blood vessels that supply your nerves.

You should also check your feet every day and have them checked by a healthcare professional once a year. This is particularly important if you think you’ve lost the feeling in your feet.

Schedule a consultation with our vascular doctors

Don’t take chances with your diabetic foot care. Regular monitoring is crucial to optimize treatment and reduce the risk of complications from conditions such as neuropathy and PAD. Call MINT today to schedule a consultation.

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