Diabetes can damage any part of your body, and your nerves are no exception. Neuropathy is most commonly caused by diabetes, and this term refers to damage to your nerves that causes pain or numbness. Diabetic neuropathy can occur in any part of your body, but it most commonly presents itself in your legs and feet. However, this condition can also affect your urinary tract and digestive system.
Diabetic neuropathy occurs when your nerves and blood vessels are damaged due to diabetes, but the exact reason for this damage varies from instance to instance. For example, this condition can occur when an immune system compromised by diabetes identifies nerves as foreign material and attacks them. Unrelated genetic factors may also predispose patients to diabetic neuropathy, and alcohol abuse or smoking can also make you more predisposed to this condition. High blood sugar, which is the hallmark of diabetes, also damages the capillaries that supply nerves with oxygen, which causes them to atrophy.
This condition is diagnosed in the course of a physical exam. To determine if you have diabetic neuropathy, your physician will consult your medical history and review your symptoms. Your doctor will also check your tendon reflexes, sensitivity to touch, and muscle tone. In addition, other tests such as electromyography (EMG), quantitative sensory testing, or nerve conduction studies may also be ordered to diagnose this complication of diabetes.
The best way to prevent or halt the spread of diabetic neuropathy is to treat your diabetes effectively. Special shoes called orthotics may be used to manage neuropathic pain, and physical therapy can effectively mitigate the pain associated with this incurable disease. Common treatments for diabetic neuropathy include education of proper care of feet, relaxation techniques, massage, stretching, gentle exercises and application of Tens unit.