Diabetic neuropathy refers to a condition in which the nerves all over the body are damaged extensively as a result of uncontrolled diabetes. It can happen anywhere in the body but usually starts in the legs and feet, and gradually spreads to the rest of the body.(1)

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What Leads To Diabetic Neuropathy?

Researchers stress that blood sugar that is left uncontrolled for a long time leads to damage to the nerves and the affected nerves thus lose the ability to send signals to the brain and the organs fail to function as they should. This leads to diabetic neuropathy. Also, uncontrolled high blood sugar can lead to damage to the walls of the capillaries, which are the tiny blood vessels that supply the nerves with nutrients and oxygen.(1)

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However, apart from this, there are many other factors which can together lead to diabetic neuropathy. These may include-

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Nerve Inflammation-

  • This condition is caused due to an autoimmune response triggered by your own immune system.
  • The immune system mistakenly recognizes nerves as foreign bodies and starts targeting, attacking and destroying them, leading to diabetic neuropathy
  • Genetic Aspects- These factors may not be related to diabetes; however, they may put you at an increased risk of developing diabetic neuropathy
  • Smoking And Alcohol- Both these habits damage your nerves and blood vessels leading to a significantly high risk of getting an infection and diabetic neuropathy.

Can Diabetic Neuropathy Be Healed?

There is no known cure for diabetic neuropathy. However, the condition can be managed, and the progress of the disease can be slowed down with proper treatment and medications.(2)

Diabetic neuropathy may lead to many complications which are quite serious. These may include-

  • Losing A Toe, Foot Or Leg- Nerve damage may become severe and you may end up getting numbness in your feet. Even minor sores can turn into dangerous ulcers and there may be a need to remove (a process called amputation) your toe, foot or leg, due to the tissue death caused by serious infections and nerve damage.(1)
  • Joint Damage- A condition known as Charcot joint can develop as the damaged nerves lead to damaged joints. This condition may cause severe joint deformity.(1)
  • Problems With Urination- There may be problems with urination if the nerves controlling the bladder are damaged. It may lead to conditions like urinary incontinence- the inability to control the urge to urinate, inability to empty the bladder completely, inability to feel the urge to urinate, urinary tract infections due to urine hold up, etc.(1)
  • Hypoglycemia Obliviousness- If there is a development of autonomic neuropathy; you may not feel that you are developing hypoglycemia. This may lead to serious complications.(1)
  • Blood Pressure Problems- Autonomic nervous system consists of the nerves that control involuntary functions in your body, such as controlling blood pressure. This may not happen when there is autonomic diabetic neuropathy, as these nerves get damaged.(1)
  • Problems Related To Digestion- There may be severe digestive problems if the diabetic neuropathy damages the nerves controlling these functions.(1)
  • Sexual Problems- Autonomic diabetic neuropathy leads to damage to the nerves that control sex organs. Men may suffer from problems like erectile dysfunction while women may suffer from vaginal dryness and arousal problems.(1)
  • Sweating Problems- Autonomic diabetic neuropathy causes damage to the nerves controlling sweat glands. This may lead to too much or too little sweating.(1)

Conclusion

Long-standing uncontrolled diabetes leads to extensive damage to the nerves and the nerves cannot transmit signals to the brain as efficiently as they should. Along with this, many other factors like the duration of diabetes, smoking, genetic reasons, etc. contribute to causing diabetic neuropathy. Diabetic neuropathy cannot be completely cured; however, its progress can be slowed down with proper management.

References:  

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Sheetal DeCaria MD

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

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Last Modified On: August 17, 2019

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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