Diabetes is a leading cause of death and disability in the United States. However, even though it is one of the most common serious diseases, there are aspects of diabetes that are widely misunderstood and/or even ignored. One of these is diabetic neuropathy. Diabetes has systemic effects, as blood supplies every part of our body with nutrients and oxygen. Altered levels of sugar in the blood affect blood vessel walls and nerve endings, resulting in widespread nerve damage.
At least 60% of all diabetics have some sort of neuropathy. This disorder can manifest itself in a number of ways, usually resulting in a chronic, difficult to treat pain or numbness in feet, legs and hands. Diabetic neuropathy is most common in people that have trouble controlling their levels of blood sugar and in diabetics that have lived with the disease for a prolonged period of time. This is because diabetic neuropathy is almost never sudden, but results from gradual damage to the nerves.
If asked, many diabetics will say that the pain associated with neuropathy is one of the most difficult aspects of this disease. While it is difficult to maintain a constant control on one’s blood sugar levels or making lifestyle changes for living with diabetes, living with the chronic pain or loss of feeling that results from diabetic neuropathy can be troublesome. The pain that results from diabetic neuropathy can often interfere with a diabetic’s everyday activities. Diabetic neuropathy tends to become concentrated on the extremities, often resulting in difficulty walking, moving around, or even getting up. Because of that, it leads to decreased ability to exercise and further worsens the diabetes itself.