Almost 16 million people are living with diabetes. It’s a disease that can affect your liver, heart, even your nerves. Lee Health’s chronic health program coordinator Sharon Krispinsky says diabetes can also cause a problem called neuropathy. “What’s unfortunate about neuropathy is it can affect any part of the nervous system.”
Neuropathy can start as numbness and tingling in the hands and feet. It’s a common problem for patients with diabetes. “60 to 70 percent of patients with diabetes do have some degree of neuropathy,” said Krispinsky.
Diabetes happens when your body has too much sugar in the blood. That elevated blood sugar can affect the nerves in two different ways. “One, is sugar is toxic to the nerves so it can decrease the density of the nerve fibers. The other concern is vascular concerns, or blood vessel concerns with diabetes that can impair the blood flow going to the nerves,” said Krispinsky.
That impairment can damage the nerves, causing neuropathy. While it’s commonly noticed in the hands and feet, neuropathy can also target the anatomic system, which affects the organs. Patients may develop problems with their digestive system, urinary tract, blood vessels and heart.
“It’s unfortunate that approximately 50 percent of people with diabetes don’t have symptoms of neuropathy, so they’re not even sure they have it,” said Krispinsky.
If patients do have symptoms doctors may recommend medications, supplements, even massages to help manage the pain. “The best way to prevent neuropathy is to keep your blood sugars in good control,” said Krispinsky.
Managing your diabetes, staying active and eating healthy can help slow the progression, even prevent, neuropathy.
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