You’ve Been Diagnosed with Diabetic Neuropathy. What Next?

Diabetic neuropathy is a condition that is becoming increasingly common. However, as it becomes more frequently diagnosed, the amount of treatment to alleviate symptoms also increases. Symptoms of diabetic neuropathy are dependent on the type of nerve damage you have. 

Although diabetic neuropathy can be a debilitating condition, there are several treatment options for you that can help provide you with the symptom relief you need. At BEST Health System, we believe the first step of any treatment plan is patient education. When patients have a better understanding of their condition, it makes them better equipped to make decisions about treatment options that fit with their lifestyle. Check out this guide to learn more about what diabetic neuropathy is and what you can do about it. 

What is Diabetic Neuropathy

Neuropathy as its own concept is when damaged nerves cause pain, numbness, tingling, swelling, or muscle weakness in different parts of the body. It usually begins in the hands or feet and gets worse over time. Diabetic neuropathy occurs when diabetes is the cause of neuropathy. Diabetes causes your nerves to be damaged over time as a result of high glucose levels, or blood sugar, and high-fat levels in your blood, called triglycerides. Diabetic neuropathy manifests in different ways causing any of the following four types of neuropathy:

Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy occurs when there is damage to the nerves that cover the feet and legs, sometimes also affecting the hands and arms. There is a high prevalence of this type of neuropathy. 

Autonomic Neuropathy

A patient with autonomic neuropathy develops problems with their heart rate and blood pressure, digestive system, bladder, sex organs, sweat glands, and eyes due to nerve damage. 

Focal Neuropathies

Most often, focal neuropathies affect the hands, heads, torsos, or legs, which are affected by damage to an individual nerve. Focal neuropathy is most commonly caused by entrapment syndromes, such as carpal tunnel syndrome. 

Proximal Neuropathy

Proximal neuropathy affects the hip, buttocks, or thighs and can be very painful. Damage typically occurs on one side of the body and rarely spreads to the other. Symptoms normally improve over time. 

What Are Your Treatment Options

Similar to symptoms, treatment for diabetic neuropathy, will depend on the type of neuropathy you have. However, no matter which one you’ve been diagnosed with, there are usually treatment options that are a baseline for all patients. Diabetic neuropathy treatment consists of four main components:

Controlling Your Blood Sugar Levels

One of the most important treatments for diabetic neuropathy is maintaining control of your blood sugar levels. Typically, when blood glucose sugar improves so do symptoms of pain and burning. Your current treatment regimen may need to be changed if your blood sugar levels are not adequately controlled.

  • In type 1 diabetes, this may mean taking more insulin injections or using an insulin pump more often. 
  • In type 2 diabetes, this may mean taking additional oral medication or starting insulin injections. 

Changes in Lifestyle 

Oftentimes, your doctor will recommend changes to your lifestyle to combat your symptoms. This can include changes in diet and exercise. By eating nutrient-dense foods such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and lean meats, you can achieve and maintain a healthy weight. In terms of exercise, it is recommended to partake in at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity at least three times a week. Furthermore, sedentary activities should not go on for more than 30 minutes at a time and should be interrupted by standing, walking, or light stretching. 

Take Care of Your Feet 

If you have neuropathy, it is possible that you may not feel pain when there is a wound or injury. Due to this, be sure to monitor changes in the skin on your foot as it can increase the risk of infection. Every year, it is recommended that people with diabetes have comprehensive foot examinations and visual examinations of their feet. 

Controlling Pain Caused By Neuropathy

Pain caused by diabetic neuropathy can be difficult to control. It can affect your quality of life and your ability to get a good night’s rest. Fortunately, only a small percentage of those with diabetic neuropathy experience pain. It is not uncommon for a person’s pain to resolve without treatment over a period of weeks to months, particularly if it develops after a sudden change in health. There is many useful medications for treating diabetic neuropathy. Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions if they decide to prescribe you pain medication.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for diabetic neuropathy but these treatments can help improve symptoms as well as prevent complications. Managing symptoms with a treatment plan can help you get back to the things and people you love. 

BEST Health System Can Help

More often than not conservative treatment is enough to help relieve the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy. However, if symptoms persist after attempting months of conservative treatment, you may need to consider surgery. At BEST Health System, we take pride in our minimally invasive procedures which are performed by our board-certified surgeons,  Dr. Girton and Dr. Abbott. We use less than one-inch incision and muscle-sparing techniques, making this alternative more advantageous than traditional surgery. Due to these techniques, patients can experience a shorter recovery period after surgery, which eliminates the need for an overnight hospital stay, and reduces the risk of complications. 

In addition to our minimally invasive procedures, we offer MRI and other imaging diagnostics and ensure our patients get the best care possible. If you would like to learn more about BEST Health System, contact us today!