What is diabetic neuropathy?
Diabetic neuropathy is a type of nerve damage that happens in people who have diabetes. This damage reduces the ability of the nerves to carry messages to the brain and other parts of the body. Diabetic neuropathy can affect the following:
Strength and feeling in different parts of the body
Ability of the heart to keep up with the needs of the body
Ability of the intestines to digest food
Ability to achieve an erection (in men)
What causes diabetic neuropathy?
Nerve damage occurs in people who have had diabetes for a long time. People who don't control (or can't control) their blood sugar very well seem more likely to get diabetic neuropathy. Men have diabetic neuropathy more often than women.
What can I do to avoid diabetic neuropathy?
Most importantly, keep your blood sugar under control. Eat a variety of healthy foods and avoid foods that are high in fat and high in sugar. If you are overweight, ask your doctor to help you lose weight. Exercise as regularly as possible. Take your medicines just the way your doctor tells you.
How do I know if I have diabetic neuropathy?
If you have numbness in your feet and toes, you many have diabetic neuropathy. Or cuts and sores on your feet might not hurt as you would expect them to. If you have the following symptoms, you may have diabetic neuropathy:
Pain in your legs
A feeling of lightheadedness that causes you to fall
Diarrhea and constipation
Failure to get erections (in men)
What will happen if the nerves in my legs and feet are damaged?
If diabetic neuropathy has damaged the nerves in your legs and feet, you may not be able to feel pain in those parts of your body. Pain is a useful signal. If there is no feeling in your feet, you could have an injury and not know it. In addition, your muscles might atrophy, and you would have trouble walking. Or the skin on your feet might crack and make sores. Because diabetes can also keep an injury or a sore from healing, it's important to take good care of your feet.