Nerve Damage and Diabetes

June 16, 2014

Good control of blood sugar can help prevent

diabetic peripheral neuropathy.

MISSOURI – Pain, tingling and numbness in the feet and balance problems are common health issues for people with diabetes. The symptoms are known as diabetic peripheral neuropathy and can be serious if ignored.

As diabetes diagnoses rise, more people are suffering from diabetic peripheral neuropathy, a condition that leaves many vulnerable to falls, foot injuries and even limb amputation. It can occur whether a person has Type 1 (juvenile) diabetes, or the more common Type 2 (adult onset) diabetes.

“The majority of people with uncontrolled diabetes will eventually have at least some symptoms of peripheral neuropathy,” said Mercy Clinic endocrinologist Natalya Rukhman, MD. “It’s caused by prolonged high glucose levels in the bloodstream. Over time, the nerve fibers are damaged. The best defense is to manage blood-sugar levels, and that means managing diabetes.” 

While nerve damage is irreversible, people can take steps to prevent further damage. Along with managing blood-glucose levels with medications, weight loss and weight management, a restricted diet and increased activity, people with diabetes should take extra care of their feet and legs.

“People with diabetes should wear shoes, keep toes and feet clean and manicured, and immediately care for cuts and scrapes to avoid infections,” said Dr. Rukhman. “They should also be screened annually for diabetic peripheral neuropathy to catch early warning signs and try to prevent  nerve damage.”

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention reports that if current diagnosing trends continue, one in three U.S. adults will have diabetes by 2050. The CDC also lists diabetes as the leading cause of new cases of leg and feet amputations in adults unrelated to accidents or injury.

To raise awareness about the serious health issues surrounding diabetes, the Missouri Legislature recognizes the third week of June each year as Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy (DPN) Week. In Missouri alone:

  • As of 2012, 10.7 percent of Missourians were diagnosed with diabetes
  • From 1999 to 2009, diabetes prevalence in Missouri increased by 43 percent
  • Approximately half of all diabetics have DPN

Risk factors for diabetes include advancing age, obesity, family history and inactivity. Ask your Mercy Clinic physician if you might be at risk for diabetes or diabetic peripheral neuropathy.

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