The Truth about Diabetic Neuropathy

In our last article we defined peripheral neuropathy as the disruption ofthe sensory information that travels back and forth through the central nervous system from the brain and spinal cord to the muscles. However there are many forms of Neuropathy that can inhibit the body, According to the American Diabetes association, Diabetic neuropathy refers to the damage that affects the nerves of the body in people who have diabetes. It is a progressive disease, and symptoms worsen over a number of years.

Diabetic neuropathy specifically stems from those who have suffered with diabetes for many years, in some cases symptoms can take 10–15 years to even appear. The highest rates of diabetic neuropathy have been with patients diagnosed with diabetes for greater than 25 years. There is a sixty percent chance that if you have had diabetes for this length of time you could start seeing symptoms of diabetic neuropathy. Those who have difficulty with controlling their blood sugar levels, those who have high blood pressure, high cholesterol and are overweight are the most vulnerable to developing diabetes and subsequently later on, diabetic neuropathy.

The specific symptoms of diabetic neuropathy are virtually the same as peripheral neuropathy, the only real difference being the source of which the neuropathy comes from, in this casediabetes. If you experience numbness, pain, tingling and or burning sensation in the extremities, fingertips, toes, and such pain continues up to the legs or arms, and have had Diabetes for at least 10 years or more, that could be confirmation of diabetic neuropathy. Other common symptoms to look out for according to the American Diabetes Association, is the inability to feel hot versus cold, loss of balance, or Charcot’s joint, where a joint breaks down because of a problem with the nerves, this is most common to the feet.

If you have been diagnosed with diabetic neuropathy, which can be confirmed through Electromyogram (EMG) or Nerve Conduction Velocity testing (NCV). Then treatment for this conditions can vary. According to the American Diabetes Association, there are certain drugs that help to control pain like opioids, anticonvulsant drugs, and many antidepressants can normally target the painful symptoms associated with diabetic neuropathy. However an emerging alternative trend in the face of America’s current opioid epidemic, involves electrical nerve stimulation therapies. These therapies are performed normally in physical therapy and is proving not only as useful as opioid based medication, but grants superior long term residual effects and clinical efficacy for these conditions.

The nerve stimulation or e-stim as it is commonly referred to in the medical community, allows electrical pulses to stimulate nerve endings and generate muscle contractions, these contractions not only help reinvigorate the muscles but reintroduces much needed blood flow to the extremities.It also helps boost lymphatic output which helps fight some of the nagging conditions of diabetic neuropathy. Overall if done in a repeated regimented fashion, studies have shown that the effects of diabetic neuropathy or other similar neuropathies can dissipate over time with continued use. This is great news to those who suffer from diabetic neuropathy every day across the nation. We should continue supporting research that aids in helping break trends of opioid use to alleviate these and other types of conditions and use instead more multidisciplinary and alternate type clinical methodologies.

In our next article we will discover the characteristics of idiopathic neuropathy and why this is sometimes one of the most difficult neuropathies to identify and subsequently treat.

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