As many of you know, November is Diabetes Awareness Month. Diabetes is a disease that is damaging enough in and of itself, but it also happens to be a disease with a very high instance of comorbidity. That means that diabetics often suffer from other diseases or conditions related to their diabetes. Among the most common of these conditions are:
Obesity, or weight problems
Hypertension, or high blood pressure
Dyslipidemia, or abnormal cholesterol and/or fat in the blood
Sleep Apnea, or breathing abnormalities during sleep
Neuropathy, or numbness and nerve problems
This article is going to focus on one of the most dangerous and complicated of these comorbidities; diabetic neuropathy. We see cases of diabetic neuropathy quite often in this practice, and it sometimes surprises us how many misconceptions there are about the condition. Did you know that there are actually four distinct and unique types of diabetic neuropathy? Learn more about each of them below:
- Peripheral Diabetic Neuropathy: This is the most common and “earliest” stage of diabetic neuropathy. This type of neuropathy is associated with the areas that are farthest from the heart, like your feet, legs, hands and arms. Symptoms often develop slowly, sometimes even going completely unnoticed for the first few months to years of the condition. When you do notice it, you may feel numbness, that “pins and needles” feeling or an inability to sense temperature changes. In this stage, it’s not uncommon to burn, bruise or cut yourself and not notice the injury.
On the other end of the spectrum, you may be hypersensitive to touch, some of my patients have come to be saying the weight of clothing against their skin is even too much to bear. Patients who present with this type of pain may also feel pain when they walk, or even be unable to walk because their limbs feel too weak to be able to hold them. Peripheral Diabetic Neuropathy also shows up commonly as serious foot problems like ulcers, swelling, infections, deformities, bone or joint pain, numbness, injuries that won’t heal, discolored toe nails and more.
- Autonomic Neuropathy: This is the type of neuropathy associated with changes to things like bowel/bladder function, sexual response, internal temperature regulation and sweat response, etc. This type of neuropathy can also cause a condition which renders a patient incapable of feeling the warning signs of low glucose levels. These patients may need to test more often and may even benefit from a service animal that can help warn them before they crash.
- Proximal Neuropathy: This type of neuropathy can sometimes be confused with peripheral neuropathy, but this causes pain in the thighs, hips, buttocks and leads to weakness in your legs.
- Focal Neuropathy: This type of neuropathy results in the sudden weakness of a particular nerve or group of nerves which can cause weakness or pain. It can happen to any nerve in the body but most often happens in the head, torso or leg. It can manifest as double vision, inability to focus or pain behind an eye; one-sided paralysis; chest pain that can sometimes be mistaken for a heart attack, etc.
No two people are alike and no two people will exhibit the exact same symptoms in the same ways. Several of these symptoms may be linked to or associated with other illnesses as well. Only a qualified medical professional who has seen and thoroughly examined you can offer a diagnosis.
If you or someone you know is diabetic and experiencing any of these symptoms, contact us to make an appointment as soon as possible.