One of the biggest and most worrisome side effects of having diabetes is nerve damage and numbness. This loss of feeling targets the outermost limbs (the hands and feet). We usually notice when we have a wound on our hands because they are in plain view, but foot pain may go unnoticed. If you have this condition, it is very important to check your feet daily for wounds that you may not be aware of because you’ve lost feeling in your limbs.
What is Peripheral Neuropathy?
The peripheral nervous system is an immense wiring of nerves that connect the brain to the limbs. The nerves signal physical sensations (pain, pleasure, cold, etc.) back to the brain, which responds accordingly. Diabetes may cause damage to the nerves so that they are incapable of sending proper messages to the brain. You may feel pain when there is nothing causing it, or you may not feel pain at all when there is a problem. Smoking, certain types of drugs, and alcohol can make this condition worse.
What are the Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy?
If you are unsure whether you have this problem, here are some telltale signs to look out for. You may feel tingling, sharp pain, or numbness in your feet. You may feel as if it is difficult to move your legs—as though they are locked in place. The skin on your feet might become thinner. Additionally, your blood pressure may drop and you might experience gastrointestinal disorders such as diarrhea or constipation. Since all of these symptoms can also be a result of other conditions, it is important to get a proper diagnosis from a doctor.
How is Peripheral Neuropathy Treated?
In order to successfully treat this condition, it is important to know the origin of the nerve damage. Not everyone with this condition has diabetes. Avoiding alcohol and cigarettes might be all that is needed to reverse the effects. If you do have diabetes, you should be sure to closely monitor your blood sugar levels. Some people find relief through yoga, acupuncture, or physical therapy; however, these remedies do not reverse the nerve damage—they only offer pain relief. Once nerve damage sets in, it is more important to think about prevention of more serious conditions, such as ulcers. You should check your feet daily to make sure you have no wounds.
When Should You Seek Medical Attention?
If you have diabetes, you should be under the care of a doctor already. A medical professional can help you monitor this disease and keep you as healthy as possible. Others should contact Dr. Mitchell Wachtel, podiatrist North Andover, as soon as any of the symptoms listed above appear, because once you sustain nerve damage, it is difficult to undo, and your only option is maintaining the health of your feet through daily checks and proper wound care. Call Dr. Mitchell Wachtel at 888-616-2512 for an appointment, or schedule one online at one of our three Massachusetts locations.