Avoiding Diabetic Neuropathy
People with diabetes often have difficulty controlling blood sugar levels. Over time, uncontrolled blood sugar or high blood sugar can lead to nerve damage directly and indirectly by impeding the small blood vessels that deliver oxygen and nutrients to nerves. When nerves are deprived of the oxygen and nutrients they need, they become damaged, which causes nerve pain and weakness.
Approximately 50% of people with diabetes develop peripheral neuropathy (affects nerves in the feet, legs, hands, and arms) and about 30% will be diagnosed with autonomic neuropathy (affect a wide range of body systems and functions including digestive, cardiovascular, lungs, eyesight, and others). Also focal neuropathy, which develops suddenly and affects one specific nerve, most commonly in the hands, head, torso, and legs may occur as well.
The Center for Disease Control, CDC estimates that a:
- Total: 37.3 million people have diabetes (11.3% of the US population)
- Diagnosed: 28.7 million people, including 28.5 million adults
- Undiagnosed: 8.5 million people (23.0% of adults are undiagnosed)
- Total: 96 million people aged 18 years or older have prediabetes (38.0% of the adult US population)
- 65 years or older: 26.4 million people aged 65 years or older (48.8%) have prediabetes
These are sobering statistics as diabetes leads to neuropathy symptoms over time. Once diabetic neuropathy takes hold, it can be extremely debilitating. For example, patients with distal symmetric polyneuropathy (DSP), the most common form of peripheral neuropathy, have a 15-fold increase in the likelihood of a lower extremity amputation, a life-changing complication that can have both physical and mental quality of life ramifications. In addition, patients with DSP can have significant balance problems and are two to three times more likely to fall than diabetes patients who do not have neuropathy. This makes proactive prevention and nerve protection even more paramount.
When it comes to diabetic neuropathy, prevention is key. The best way to treat diabetic neuropathy is by controlling blood sugar. In addition, individuals with diabetes should follow these self-care strategies to reduce the risk of developing neuropathy and prevent it from progressing:
- Avoid smoking.
- Eat a healthy whole foods, unprocessed diet specifically for diabetes. Eliminate or reduce alcohol consumption.
- Engage in regular physical activity.
- Focus on foot care, checking for problems every day. If issues arise, individuals should visit their healthcare providers immediately.
- Take medications as directed.
Presently there is no sure-fire way to reverse diabetic neuropathy. However, there are many ways to manage symptoms and slow its progression. To avoid serious diabetic neuropathy complications, the best strategy is to employ a comprehensive approach that includes diet, lifestyle, specific dietary supplements, and prescription medications when necessary. The Beyond Health and Wellness Center will assist you in tailoring your key prevention plan. If you are a diabetic or pre diabetic, call (989) 272-2774 and make an appointment today before neuropathy occurs and alters your quality of life.