What is Diabetic Neuropathy?
When there are high sugar levels in our blood (in diabetes), the nerves get damaged over a period of time. This condition is termed as Diabetic Neuropathy.
Our blood helps in carrying nutrients, and oxygen to the nerves and other parts of our body. When blood also contains a large amount of sugar, it experiences difficulty in flowing. With this interrupted flow, nerves in our peripheral organs such as legs and hands get fewer nutrients and oxygen and thus get damaged. This leads to different sensations like pain, burning sensations, tingling sensations or numbness in the legs and feet.
Causes and risk factors of Diabetic Neuropathy
- Uncontrolled blood sugar levels
- Unhealthy diet
- Lack of physical activity
- Smoking and consumption of alcohol
Symptoms of Diabetic Neuropathy
- Tingling sensation (sensation of pins and needles pricking) in the legs and feet
- Numbness (loss or reduced sensation in the feet)
- Burning sensation in the feet
- Pain and discomfort in legs (calf muscles, feet, knees) & hands
Treatment for Diabetic Neuropathy
The first approach to avoid or reduce this complication is to control the blood sugar levels and avoid further fluctuations.
Diabetics are usually suggested to have less food throughout the day but in reality, not having proper meals at regular intervals of time actually fluctuates the blood sugar levels!
A balanced diet which includes protein, fiber and carbohydrates are very important to keep the blood sugar levels within the normal range and even provide our body with all the essential nutrients.
Vitamin B and Vitamin D help in relieving symptoms of Diabetic Neuropathy.
- Vitamin B supplements help maintain proper function of the nerves and keep them healthy. Including chicken, fish, eggs, soy products and dairy products in our diet keeps our Vitamin B requirement in check.
- Vitamin D also lowers the risk of peripheral neuropathy. It is produced in our skin after exposure to the sunlight. We can also take oral supplements in case of low Vitamin D levels.
Hot peppers contain capsaicin which relieves pain. Therefore, cayenne pepper is used widely in ointments which are applied on the surface of the skin to reduce neuropathy pain and its sensations.
Quitting smoking and alcohol can help solve most health issues. Smoking and alcohol can also disturb the blood sugar levels and hence, increases the risk of diabetic neuropathy.
Physical activity and daily exercises are important to manage our blood sugar levels. If we perform routine exercises, our blood sugar levels stay in the normal range, and hence, the risk and severity of diabetic neuropathy improves.
Massaging gently with sesame oil on the affected area can reduce the sensations arising due to neuropathy.
Diabetic Neuropathy Medicines
- Anticonvulsants: “Pregabalin” is a widely used medicine. This medicine blocks the movement of pain signals to the brain and as a result, improves the pain caused due to neuropathy.
The most common side effects include dizziness, sleepiness or headache. In some cases, Gabapentin and Sodium valproate is given but due to adverse effects like weight gain, Pregabalin is preferred more.
- Antidepressants — This includes Duloxetine or amitriptyline. This medicine blocks the movement of pain signals to the brain and as a result, reduces the sensation of pain caused due to neuropathy. Side effects include sleepiness, dizziness, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, insomnia and headache.
- Opioids (painkiller) — This includes Dextromethorphan, Morphine, Tramadol, and Oxycodone. These medicines work by blocking the movement of pain signals to the brain. However, opioids aren’t commonly prescribed due to the risk of dependency on the medicine with prolonged usage. To avoid any further risk, patients are referred to specialized pain clinics. Common side effects include sedation, nausea, and constipation.
- NSAIDs (painkiller) — Medicines such as paracetamol and other common painkillers are prescribed to patients to reduce the pain. These medicines work by blocking the formation of the substances that cause pain. Common side effects mostly include gastric issues.
Diabetic neuropathy is a common complication of diabetes. However, we can always take appropriate measures to control blood sugar levels and avoid the worsening of the condition.