Sensory Neuropathy – Diabetes

What is neuropathy?

The brain sends messages to every part of our body and vice versa via the nervous system. When the nerves are affected or damaged, and these signals are not being sent through, thus causing a condition called neuropathy, which is a long-term complication which can cause problems in various parts of the body.

Neuropathy can be more common in those with Diabetes. High blood glucose level over long periods of time can damage the small blood vessels which supply nutrients to the nerves. The nerve fibres can be damaged or disappear if those essential nutrients are lacking.

There are three types of neuropathy:

  • Sensory
    Affecting the sensation of feet and hands and even legs and arms. It is the most common type of neuropathy in diabetics, also called peripheral neuropathy.
  • Autonomic
    Affecting the nerves in the heart, stomach, intestines, bladder and sweat glands.
  • Motor
    Affecting nerves in the muscles making it difficult to walk and move fingers. This neuropathy is quite rare in diabetics.

Symptoms of Sensory Neuropathy

When the sensory nerves have been affected, the symptoms one can experience are:

  • Numbness
  • Tingling sensation
  • Unexplained burning feeling
  • Stabbing pains
  • Difficulty to sense pain or extreme temperatures.
  • Dysesthesia, which is an abnormal sensation such as, a burning feeling under the skin or hyper sensibility of clothes and bedding.

Complications – Specifically in diabetics.

Having sensory neuropathy can make it difficult for someone with loss of feeling to sense pain and heat which could result in unnoticed injury being sustained in our feet and hands. Feet are harder to see and get to and are more vulnerable than our hands, thus making feet more predisposed to possible trauma. Some minor injuries due to sensory neuropathy could be caused by:

  • Sharp objects inside shoes
  • Barefoot walking
  • Friction from badly fitting shoes
  • Burns from radiators or hot water bottles

It is important to check inside one’s shoes and to inspect one’s feet on a regular basis to prevent and avoid or rule out any minor injuries.

If we leave these minor injuries untreated, they may develop into infections and ulcerations.

In diabetics with severe neuropathy, a rare complication can occur which is called Charcot Foot. Bones in the feet can break and go unnoticed due to the existing neuropathy, then these bones heal abnormally causing the foot to become deformed.

Treatment

Unfortunately, there is no treatment to heal or repair nerve damage, although there are a variety of treatments that could be helpful. It would be ideal for diabetics whether experiencing a loss of sensory sensation or not, to keep their blood glucose levels under control to help prevent neuropathy from developing or worsening, such as diet control, regular exercise and medication. It is important to have medical attention and to have regular check-ups and routine appointments.

At The Footcare Centre, our podiatrists will conduct neurological and vascular test to all new patients and specifically recommend diabetic checks, to rule out any neuropathic problems. To book an appointment call please call 01932 849373 or book online.

This blog has been written by Steven Castillo Pinel and is not necessarily the opinion of The Footcare Centre Ltd

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