Do You Have Diabetic Nerve Damage?

By caragypsy Latest Reply 2009-08-24 20:34:53 -0500
Started 2009-07-01 19:19:59 -0500

I was told 2 years ago that I have Diabetic Nerve Damage or Neuropathy but no one told me all about it. I fould this yesterday and learned alot so I thought I would put it in hear for everyone to read.
Diabetic Nerve Damage: An Overview
Nerve damage, or neuropathy, is a common side effect of diabetes. Learn about the symptoms and how to reduce your risk.
By Kay Uzoma
Reviewed by QualityHealth's Medical Advisory Board
Sixty to 70 percent of people with diabetes suffer some form of nerve damage or diabetic neuropathy, according to the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC). While the brain and spinal cord aren't usually affected, neuropathies can develop in many other parts of the body, such as the extremities (feet and hands), internal organs and genitalia. Because nerves are so critical to a variety of functions in your body—from sensation to breathing and digestion—any damage to them can have serious health implications.
There are four types of diabetic neuropathy:
Peripheral neuropathy (also called distal symmetric polyneuropathy or sensorimotor neuropathy) is the most common and affects your feet, hands, toes, and fingers.
Autonomic neuropathy occurs in the internal organs and can lead to complications such as indigestion, eye problems, high blood pressure, heart problems and loss of sexual function.
Focal neuropathy causes sudden weakness in one nerve or a group of nerves that leads to muscle weakness or pain.
Proximal neuropathy causes pain and weakness in your buttocks, hips and thighs.
Symptoms of Diabetic Neuropathy
Nerve damage caused by diabetes can occur over a long period of time. In some cases, you may not notice any symptoms, especially depending on which part of the body is affected. Also, symptoms may be intermittent, occurring for a short period of time and then disappearing. These are common signs of nerve damage from diabetes:
Numbness, pain, or tingling in your hands, feet, arms or legs
Trouble digesting your food
Poor bladder or bowel control
Nausea or vomiting
Loss of muscle mass in your feet or hands
Dizziness, faintness, or weakness
Vaginal dryness or erectile dysfunction
Vision problems
Causes of Diabetic Neuropathy
One of the main causes of diabetic nerve damage is high blood glucose, which may directly impair the nerves, or may reduce blood supply and oxygen that the nerves need. Other factors include low insulin levels, abnormal blood fat levels, and inflammation of the nerves. In some cases, another co-existing illness may be the cause of nerve damage, not diabetes.
How to Prevent Diabetic Neuropathy
The risk of diabetic nerve damage is higher the longer you have diabetes, or if your blood glucose levels have been high for a long period. Here's how to put the odds in your favor:
1. Control your blood glucose levels. This is the most important way to prevent diabetic nerve damage. Be sure to monitor it regularly, take your medication, such as insulin injections, on schedule. Also, watch your diet and exercise regularly. According to the ADA, you can cut your risk of diabetic neuropathy by up to 60 percent if you manage your diabetes intensively.
2. Get an A1C test (a lab test). This should be done at least twice a year to determine your average blood glucose for the past two to three months.
3. Get regular medical check ups. Because you may not notice some symptoms, it's important not to skip these exams. Testing may include checking your reflexes and your sensitivity to touch.
4. Do a daily body check. Inspect your feet daily for blisters, cuts, redness, sores, swelling, or tender nails.
Treatment for Diabetic Neuropathy
Getting your blood glucose level as close to normal as possible is the first way to treat diabetic neuropathy. This will reduce your symptoms and avoid further nerve damage and other complications of diabetes. Also, practice good foot hygiene and choose proper footwear to lower your risk of developing Charcot foot, or foot ulcers.
Diabetic neuropathy can also be painful. Your doctor may recommend medications commonly used to relieve diabetic nerve pain. These include antidepressants such as Paxil® or Wellbutrin®, or opioids such as oxycodone and tramadol. Over-the-counter meds such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen are not very useful for nerve pain.
Some alternative remedies for diabetic nerve pain include acupuncture, biofeedback, physical therapy (which also combats muscle weakness), magnetic therapy and electrical nerve stimulation.
For sexual problems caused by diabetic neuropathy, your doctor may recommend treatments such as vaginal lubricants to relieve dryness, or medications for erectile dysfunction.

23 replies

Mike Shaw
Mike Shaw 2009-07-04 16:20:39 -0500 Report

I have the early start of Neuropathy in my feet. That is because I didn't take care of myself for a year and a half. I am bound and determined NOT to let this get any further. My fault. I fee really bad for people that have no control of getting Neuropathy. Just be as healthy as possible, and don't sweat the small stuff. Yeah, I know. It is easier said than done.

spice gal
spice gal 2009-07-04 14:31:58 -0500 Report

I have neuropathy in both of my arms and have been on Neurontin for about 15 years now. It works very well to keep the pain under control. I do notice,though, when taking the higher dose (I was at 2800 mg/day) that I seemed to lose my balance a lot but not on a lower dose like now (about 1500 mg/day). I started on Neurontin when it first came out. Both of the nerves in my arms are damaged. This is a wonderful medication. I took myself off of it once because I didn't think it was doing any good…boy was I wrong. It also helps sciatic nerve pain down the legs which I also have. Thanks, Deb

Janice5208 2009-07-03 22:20:02 -0500 Report

thanks -I appreciate all this info

Flo-E 2009-07-04 13:45:03 -0500 Report

Vary good information here. My sister suffers from this condition. She is on morphine and has been for about 3 years. I worry about it because it is so addictive. It has been mentioned to me by the Dr. that I might have it too. I could and would not use morphine. This information lets me know there are other options for me. Thank you very much.

lipsie 2009-07-03 19:26:51 -0500 Report

All of this is so very impressive. I did not know quite a lot here thank you all for your information! I suffer every day from neuropathy…it interferes with my daily functions BUT there are so many things I could be doing as I read here. .. Thank you all once again! Love yasss! *HugS* Sheila

Usha K
Usha K 2009-07-03 14:49:06 -0500 Report

Incredibel information! YOur thinking is at the level of the Dr's!
Thanks for the article. Yes it is true that the nerves undergo damage over a period of time.
You must keep yourself in routine with weekly pamper yourself body massage either by olive oil or coconut oil smear all over your body without puting on your sense organs and let it be absorbed by your body for 20 minutes and them take a good stimulating shower!
Also try the dollar store gentle brushes and pedicure care everyday during your shower time!Every little things that we take care will make a difference in some degrees!
With regards for you to feel better.
Usha K

MamaMargie 2009-07-03 10:37:22 -0500 Report

I have bad neuropathy in my feet and toes. The shooting and stabbing pains are awful; the worst is at night when I go to bed. I am currently on Gabapentin, it helps but I've been reading about Lyrica. It is supposed to be specifically for diabetic nerve pain. Has anyone tried it? The side effects are kind of scary to me…

apanda 2009-07-03 11:38:30 -0500 Report

Mama, I am currently taking Lyrica and have been for about 2 years now. I take pills in the a.m. and 2 more after dinner. I found that it helps somewhat, but it doesnt make it go away entirely. It is better than how it was before taking the Lyrica for sure. Just a warning that it will make you very sleepy. Good Luck.

apanda 2009-07-03 10:03:01 -0500 Report

I currently suffer, and I do mean SUFFER from Neuropathy, but mine is twofold. I have a back injury to all the disks in my low back and a spinal cord injury which was the onset of the neuropathy. Since being diagnosed with diabetes, the neuropathic pain has gotten even worse. These posts were very insightful and gave some good hints as to what to do that might help control this. I have gotten my A1C down from 13 to 6.3 but I havent noticed too much difference in the neuropathy. I wonder it is ever possible to reverse this damage?

Antique-Dave 2009-07-02 08:59:35 -0500 Report

This is some of what I have gleaned off research papers on the internet in the past few months.

In all people glucose binds to proteins which = glycosylation. normal ranges are 4.2 to 6.0 when our glucose levels are higher then normal ranges its an indication that we are not producing enough insulin or are building a resistance to insulin and have too much glucose in our blood.

When glucose binds to red blood cells we get glycated hemoglobin, the baisis for our A1c

When the myelin sheath and nerves become glycated we have loss of nerve function.

When the protein in the walls of of blood vessels become Glycated we have Atheroscelrosis.

Atheroscelrosis causes a reduction in blood flow which can cause organ damage, hypertension, retinopathy, decreased kidney function and poor healing.

Glycated blood cells do not carry as much oxygen, the cell walls are thicker (more reisitantce to insulin)they get clumpy and can stick together.

Glycation of the lens of the eye can cause cataracts.

The insulin resistance and subsequent increasingly higher insulin levels
1) increase fat storage and formation
2) inhibits breakdown of fat and makes it harder to lose weight.
3) enhances sodium reabsorption from the kidneys
4) Promotes water retention and hypertension
5) stimulates certain ovarian hormones to secrete free testosterone.

So what that means to me is that glycosylation is our #1 enemy.

The underlying belief is that one a red blood cell becomes glycated it remains that way.

Apparently there is something called Alagebrium or AL-711 that is supposed to break the crosslink and reverse the glycation. Other supplements and vitamins are also supposed to reverse or improve glycosylation. Alpha Lipoic Acid being one of them.

Diabetics have 2 to 3 times the number of cross linked proteins

This links an article on Advanced Glycated end products.

Glycosylation of cells is supposed to be a slow moving process, my interpretation of that is if its a slow moving process then temporary spikes from our food consumption is not the problem, it only becomes a problem if we cannot get our BGL to come down to more normal levels before glycosylation occurs.

Now I read postings and other things all the time where people talk about how going low averages out the highs but if glycation is a slow process to begin with how would that actually be the case?

I did not have any lows yet my A1c dropped from 10.9 to 6.1 in 3 months. Having a low BGL does not in itself reverse glycation so how can it figure into averaging you A1C?

I'll stop here for now.

GabbyPA 2009-07-02 09:52:21 -0500 Report

Wow, that is intersting. I knew that Alpha Lipoic Acid was important to take, but I really didn't know why. This helps me understand things a lot better...well as well and most of the complicated science behind our disease is.

Antique-Dave 2009-07-02 10:44:29 -0500 Report

My ever evolving list of goals includes

1) Prevent and reverse glycosylation
2) Prevent and reduce sorbitol accumulation
3)Enhance insulin sensitivity and reduce resistance.
4) increase blood flow and dilation of blood vessels for improved oxygen carrying capacity.
5) Improve pancreatic function and health
6) reduce LDL cholesterol
7) reduce trigycerides
8) increase HDL
9) reduce oxidative stress and AGE Advance Glycated End products.
10) maintain a stabil blood pressure.
11) and of course a controlled BGL

GabbyPA 2009-07-02 12:53:27 -0500 Report

That is a great list of goals. Some of which I have no clue how to do.

How do you prevent sorbitol accumulation?
How do you increase the oxygen carrying capacity?
How do you improve your pancreatic function?

The rest are part of my list too, and I am working on those.

Antique-Dave 2009-07-02 14:31:50 -0500 Report

How do you prevent sorbitol accumulation?
L-Arginie improves nitrous oxide which can prevent sorbitol accumulation, Vitamin C reduces sorbito accumulation

How do you increase the oxygen carrying capacity?

it can be as simple as making sure you are not anemic, opening a window to have fresh air, breathing deeply a few minutes each day, Vitamin F Omega 3's are important, niacin can open blood vessels deep within the body.

How do you improve your pancreatic function?
Chromium supports pancreatic function, Omega 3's can augment insulin secretion, Niacin may restore some beta cell function,

GabbyPA 2009-07-02 20:00:56 -0500 Report

Oh good, thanks. I am already doing Niacin and Omega 3's. We love to keep our windows open as long as we can each Spring and fall, and some into the winters here. I take Chromium also and I have just started to do some deep breathing I guess I am on the right track.

Now I heard that C and cause issues with some diabetics. Have you read anything about that?

Antique-Dave 2009-07-02 20:11:18 -0500 Report

There are conflicting reports on just about everything I think, if it works for you it works thats the bottom line on everything related to D don't you think?

I had dropped the C but started it up again, I think I'm getting carried away sometimes on this but I'm getting what I want.

Tonight I had 2 pcs of fish, deep fried mushrooms, and 2 cobs of corn, last night it was pork chops, stuffing and broccoli with a peice of johnny cake and fake honey for desert.

GabbyPA 2009-07-03 08:03:43 -0500 Report

It is true. Everyone is different and I can attest to that. My mom and I live together and her numbers will be so different after a meal than mine....even if we eat the same things. Carbs are more kind to her than me, and corn....forget about it. I love it, but it shoots me to the moon. Man, it is a bummer.
Thanks for sharing those tips. New stuff for me to work on too. Always a challenge

P2putt 2009-07-02 05:51:12 -0500 Report

Thank you so much. I have been having pain in my behind,hips.thighs and calves for over 6 mos. now. I thought it was the result of intense exercise. Your topic has clarified this . Thank you again. Pete

Avera 2009-07-01 23:29:23 -0500 Report

This is such good information. It seems at one time or another that so may people on this site ask about Neuropathy. The more information posted, the better. This article seems to answer many questions that have been asked.

GabbyPA 2009-07-01 19:44:17 -0500 Report

this is very helpful. Thank you so much. I am constantly frustrated with how my feet feel. My doctor doesn't think it is serious, so I have to get to my podiatrist to make sure. I do see a difference in them as my levels are improving. I hope it is not that I am just getting used to it.

cathy culp
cathy culp 2009-08-24 20:34:53 -0500 Report

This is a very good article…would like to see also neuropathy and depression and how that all plays in together and what others do to help themselves when they get down and out because of not being able to do what they use to because of the neuropathy.