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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Peripheral Neuropathy



We have a friend with diabetes. (This is not a euphemism, we really do.) He does not take care of himself. We think that it is a case, which we can completely understand, where he feels okay so he can’t really be sick. But, of course, he is. 

I had heard that he had been having problems with leg cramps at night – very painful leg cramps that drive him from his bed to try and find relief. The night time cramps were becoming more and more frequent. Last week, he mentioned the problem to his doctor. He was told that the cramps were from peripheral neuropathy. I had no idea that leg cramps could be a sign of peripheral neuropathy. I have done a little research that I am sharing with you. 

What is peripheral neuropathy?

There are four kinds of diabetic neuropathy. There is peripheral neuropathy, autonomic neuropathy, proximal neuropathy, and focal neuropathy.

 Peripheral neuropathy is the term for damage to the nerves in the arms and legs. One of the problems is that the damage can start before the symptoms occur. A doctor may be able to see damage before the patient can tell there is a problem. On each visit with your doctors, you should have them check out your legs and feet. The symptoms that a patient will notice can be as follows:

·         Not feeling pain or temperature changes
·         A burning or tingling sensation
·         Sharp pains or cramps
·         Sensitivity to touch – even a light touch
·         Becoming unbalanced/ having coordination problems

The symptoms are often worse at night.

Because peripheral neuropathy can weaken the muscles in the legs and ankles, it can alter the way a person walks. 


What causes peripheral neuropathy?

The main cause of peripheral neuropathy is lack of control over blood sugar levels. Also, the length of time that a person has diabetes will also increase the chances of developing peripheral neuropathy. People who have trouble controlling their blood sugar levels, as well as those with high levels of blood fat and blood pressure and those who are overweight appear to be the most common people who suffer from peripheral neuropathy. 

What is the treatment?

The first step is to get the blood glucose levels under control. This will be the most important part of the treatment. The patient has to work closely with their diabetes team (internist, endocrinologist, dietician, family) to keep their levels in the correct range to try and prevent more damage. It can happen that in the process of getting the levels lowered that the symptoms can get worse but then they will improve. There is no cure at this time but there can be some relief and getting levels in the right range will help prevent further damage. 

Our friend is currently really working on getting his levels in the correct range. 

Thanks for reading!

NOTE:  I am not a doctor.  If you have questions about what you have read, please check with your doctor.