This misunderstood, under-diagnosed side effect of Diabetes can be a source of extreme discomfort. Fortunately, people are becoming more aware of it, and there are more pain treatment options available than ever before. Read on to learn about the source of this frustrating condition and how to find relief.
The Hidden Damage of Diabetes
By now, most people are aware of Diabetes’s negative effects on the body. It affects nearly every organ, from the brain to the heart. One of the most damaging symptoms of Diabetes, Diabetic Neuropathy, is estimated to affect nearly half of all people suffering from this disease.
What Is Diabetic Neuropathy?
Diabetic Neuropathy occurs when nerves in the body are damaged, often due to high blood sugar, a common symptom amongst Diabetics. A person may experience chronic pain, discomfort, tingling sensations, and numbness. The most affected areas of the body tend to be the extremities, including the fingers, hands, toes, and feet. It can also be detrimental to the thighs, hips, back, and neck. In severe cases, Neuropathy can lead to serious issues, including ulcers, digestive problems, and even paralysis. These conditions are progressive, and without treatment, they will get worse over time. Fortunately, under the guidance of a qualified medical professional, individuals can dramatically reduce their chance of developing serious side effects and possibly achieve relief from their chronic pain.
The Causes of Diabetic Neuropathy (And How to Prevent It)
Diabetic Neuropathy is primarily caused by extended periods of high blood sugar, which is a result of Type 2 Diabetes. This puts millions of people at risk of developing symptoms. According to the Center for Disease Control, over 34 million Americans (over 10%) are affected by Diabetes. Because it is such a common problem, there has been tremendous progress in treatments over the years. Having done extensive research, most professionals agree that the main causes are obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, and family history. Diabetes and its accompanying neuropathy can often be prevented if lifestyle changes are implemented early enough. Type 2 Diabetes, in particular, is significantly more common among people who struggle with their weight, making weight management a key factor in prevention.
Unfortunately, once it has been diagnosed, Type 2 Diabetes is impossible to fully cure, leaving the individual highly susceptible to neuropathy. Even if one is only experiencing minor symptoms, it is important to seek treatment right away due to the progressive nature of the condition.
Types of Diabetic Neuropathy
Understanding which type of neuropathy is affecting the body will help both the doctor and the patient determine the best course of action. Here is a simple guide to the four most common types:
- Peripheral Neuropathy
This is the most commonly diagnosed type of neuropathy. It tends to affect the feet primarily. Symptoms include pain, tingling sensations, cramped feet, twitching, and more.
- Proximal Neuropathy
Less severe than many forms, proximal neuropathy tends to only cause temporary issues. These issues can still cause notable discomfort, so treatment is encouraged when necessary.
- Focal Neuropathy
Focal Neuropathy can come on suddenly and issues range in severity from temporarily blurred vision to partial paralysis of the face (Bell’s Palsy). It can also lead to Carpel Tunnel Syndrome.
- Autonomic Neuropathy
Autonomic Neuropathy tends to affect entire systems of the body, rather than just one limb. As such, it can be more difficult to identify and treat. It can lead to everything from sexual dysfunction to digestive issues. In severe cases, it can cause blurred vision, fainting, and dizziness.
Treating Diabetic Neuropathy
As one might expect with such a complex condition, there is no universally agreed upon “best” treatment option. First of all, several variables must be taken into account and discussed with a doctor. How old is the patient? What is the severity of the patient’s discomfort? Is the patient struggling with mobility, on any type of medication, or experiencing mental health issues? Every one of these factors, and more, should be taken into account before deciding on a treatment plan. It is important to remember that there is no full cure. Most of these treatments should be viewed as effective forms of pain management. Once the patient has carefully considered their situation, these are some of the options they will have to choose from.
There are several medications that doctors commonly prescribe for neuropathy, including antidepressants, opioids, and various others. Like any other treatment, this option comes with many pros and cons. Some Pros of medication are fast-acting and safe (if used responsibly). Many of these medications can give users instant relief, which makes them popular among people with severe symptoms. Medications that are prescribed by doctors have been rigorously tested for both safety and efficacy. As long as patients take only the recommended dosage and follow the regiment they have been provided with, they can feel reasonably confident they will see safe improvement.
Some of the cons, however, include side effects and the risk of dependency. Some of these medications may cause side effects such as lethargy, nausea, dizziness, etc. It is up to the patient and their doctor to determine the best course of action.
Occasional Risk of Dependency
Certain medications can cause dependency if not used within the strict guidelines provided by a medical professional. People with a history of addiction should always consult a doctor before taking any medication.
For those who prefer not to take medication, physical therapy offers a great opportunity for symptom relief. People suffering from neuropathy have usually endured years of nerve damage, resulting in a disconnect between various systems in the body. A physical therapist’s job is to help the nerves, muscles, and mind work together in harmony. In doing so, they are often able to reduce or eliminate nerve pain. With that, try getting pain management in Oregon, Ohio.
- Improved Physical Health
Many Diabetics have experienced a marked decrease in mobility due to their condition. This can make it difficult to complete simple day-to-day activities, never mind beginning an exercise regimen that will help them regain their physical health. Working with a qualified physical therapist provides a safe option that allows them to slowly build strength and improve connections between muscles, nerves, and the mind.
- No Need for Doctor Referral
One can shop around to find a physical therapist who suits their unique needs. It is a booming profession with many highly qualified professionals in every state, so patients are usually able to find a good fit.
- Improved Physical Health
- Health Improvements Take Time
While physical therapy has been proven as an effective method to reduce pain, individuals often don’t see a noticeable improvement in their symptoms for weeks or even months. Be sure to understand that physical therapy is a long process that rewards consistency.
- Potentially Expensive
Not all physical therapists are covered by insurance providers, so be sure to do the proper research and find one you can afford.
- Health Improvements Take Time
While it is usually considered a last resort, surgery for Diabetic Neuropathy can be an effective way to relieve pain in severe cases.
- Effective In Emergency Cases
In the most extreme cases, neuropathy can cause permanent paralysis of an extremity, and even present the risk of amputation. In circumstances like this, a doctor may have no resort other than surgery.
- Effective In Emergency Cases
Even with the help of an insurance provider, surgeries can be a financial strain.
- Long Recovery Time
While recovering from surgery, a patient may be out of work and potentially bed-bound for an extended period. Always weigh the potential risks with trusted medical experts.
Issues Surrounding Neuropathy Treatment
It is important to remember that the issues closely associated with Diabetic Neuropathy – pain, tingling, numbness, etc., are not exclusive to this condition. Be careful when seeking advice, and consider consulting a neuropathy specialist or a pain doctor in Toledo, Ohio.
Innovative and Experimental Treatments
Due to the prevalence of this condition, scientists have been working tirelessly to find new treatment methods. These futuristic technologies may have seemed impossible a generation ago, but now, they show the potential to revolutionize how neuropathy is treated. Some of these cutting-edge technologies include LED Light Therapy, Shockwave Therapy, and Pulsed Electro-Magnetic Field Therapy. Some patients are even finding relief through CBD oils and lotions. Doctors haven’t had enough time to study the effects of these methods, but for those who have not seen improvement through traditional medicine, they may be worth investigating.
Diabetic Neuropathy is an exceptionally complex condition. While there may not be a magical cure, the methods discussed above have helped countless people regain the quality of life they lost after their diagnosis. And best of all, discoveries are being made every year. At Comprehensive Centers For Pain Management, individuals suffering from neuropathy can have more treatment options available today than ever before, and the outlook continues to improve.