If You Have Diabetes, Your Nerves are at Risk!
If you follow us at all, then you already know how important diabetic foot care is to us – and how important it is to us that you understand, too!
Proper diabetic foot care is an almost 100% proactive approach toward safeguarding your feet from the dangers that diabetes can pose. The best way to treat a problem, after all, is doing all you can to prevent it in the first place.
But there is more than one way that diabetes can damage your feet and pave the way to even more dangerous situations. We will be focusing on one of them here: diabetic neuropathy.
What is Diabetic Neuropathy?
The term “neuropathy” refers to nerve damage and the symptoms that can arise from it, including:
- Abnormal sensations (such as heat or cold when the temperature doesn’t call for it)
Neuropathy does not necessarily have to be the result of diabetes. Nerves can also be damaged through trauma, compression, and other conditions.
But if you do have diabetes, there is a significant chance that high blood sugar can injure your nerves over time. Research suggests that as many as half of people who live with diabetes also have diabetic neuropathy.
How Diabetic Neuropathy Affects Your Feet
Neuropathy tends to most commonly affect the hands and feet. Of the two, the feet tend to be the more vulnerable due to how far away they are from the heart. It takes more effort to get much-needed nutrients and other elements for normal function to all parts of the feet, including the nerves. Anything that starts to impede blood flow tends to affect the feet first.
The progression of neuropathy can be divided into five general stages that coincide with increased damage to the nerves in your feet. However, what a patient fully experiences might differ from this track somewhat.
- Stage One: Occasional Pain and Abnormal Sensations – Initially, the symptoms of nerve damage can be very subtle and easy to pass off as a fluke. You have brief periods of inexplicable foot pain, numbness, or general discomfort, but they are short-lived and far between. It may be weeks or months between episodes.
- Stage Two: Pain Becomes More Consistent – You likely won’t be able to identify a specific point where you pass into stage two. You may simply notice that pain has become worse and more frequent, and that it has become more difficult to ignore.
- Stage Three: Constant Pain – Pain will likely be at its worst at this point. It will likely be a problem every or nearly every day and have a significant impact on your life when it occurs. This is the top of the roller coaster before the drop begins.
- Stage Four: Increasing Numbness – While a decrease in pain will likely come as some sort of relief, starting to feel more numbness is not a good sign. The nerves in your feet are widely damaged by this point, and you might also find it more difficult to keep your balance.
- Stage Five: Complete Loss of Sensation – By this point, your nerves are far past the point of no return. Damage has reached a point where it is nearly impossible for your nerves to transmit most signals to your brain. It is even more difficult to remain steady on your feet, and you are unable to feel most if any damage to your feet.
Stages four and five are what makes diabetic neuropathy such a dangerous problem. Combine the inability to feel damage to your feet with a slowed ability to heal, and it means wounds can remain unnoticed and untreated for quite some time. Even the smallest nick has the ability to turn into a deep wound. The risks of serious infection and structural collapse of the foot are greatly increased.
How to Treat Diabetic Neuropathy
The earlier you start addressing diabetic neuropathy, the more you can do to preserve your nerves and slow or stop progression of the damage. That means getting the professional attention you need in stages one or two (preferably one!).
When you come to see us for nerve pain, we can assess the sources of the problem and recommend a treatment plan that can work to your benefit.
Parts of a comprehensive plan might include one or more of the following:
- Custom orthotics to take excess stress off of sensitive or vulnerable areas (especially if there is a structural abnormality of your feet in play).
- Advanced treatments such as laser therapy to help relieve pain and potentially restore some lost nerve function.
- Medications to relieve discomfort.
- Dietary supplements to promote nerve health.
- Changes to activity levels and footwear.
Other recommendations may also be made, and proper management of blood sugar levels will always be a factor in any case.
Chandler’s Experts in Diabetic Foot Care
Remember: when it comes to diabetic foot care, sooner is better and proactive is best.
Whenever you have any foot or ankle concerns, or simply want to ensure you’re doing the most to safeguard your feet into the future, do not hesitate to schedule an appointment with us. Call us at (480) 963-9000 or fill out our online contact form below to reach us electronically instead.