Diabetic neuropathy is a neuropathic disorder that is associated with diabetes. It is believed to be a result of microvascular injury caused by diabetes involving small blood vessels that supply blood to nerves (vasa nervorum). Symptoms of diabetic neuropathy depend upon the affected nerves and can range from numbness and pain in extremities to problems with urinary tract, digestive system, heart, and blood vessels.
Diabetes Mellitus is the leading cause of neuropathy. Neuropathy is the most common complication and is the greatest source of morbidity and mortality in diabetes patients. It is estimated that the prevalence of neuropathy in diabetes patients is approximately 20%. Diabetic neuropathy is the cause of 50-75% of non-traumatic amputations.
Signs and symptoms of diabetic neuropathy:
- Heartburn and bloating
- Numbness, electric pain, tingling or burning sensations starting in the extremities and continuing up the legs or arms
- Feeling of fullness even on eating small amounts of food
- Orthostatic Hypotension (feeling light-headed and dizzy when standing up)
- Faster heart rate than normal
- Nausea, constipation or diarrhea
- Problems swallowing
- Bladder problems
- Muscle weakness
- Sweating excessively even when temperature is cool or the individual is at rest
- Chest pains, which sometimes can be a warning of an impending heart attack
- Sexual dysfunction in men for e.g. erectile dysfunction
- Sexual problems in women for. e.g. vaginal dryness and lack of orgasms
- Dysesthesia - the patient's sense of touch is distorted
- Significant facial and eyelid drooping
- Eyesight may be affected
- Speech impairment
- Muscle contractions
Doctors believe that the best treatment for diabetic neuropathy is to have the diabetes well under control; this implies maintaining blood glucose levels within a healthy range throughout the day.