It is time to dispose of that old radio you use in the basement. That damaged cord gives off sparks whenever you move it, and the sound is so muffled you can’t hear the music. It is easy enough to get a new one that eliminates the problems. Unfortunately, when the nerves in your legs begin to malfunction because of peripheral neuropathy, sending off sparks of pain into your toes and muffling sensation in your feet and legs, you can’t just go to the store for a new pair.
Diabetes and Your Feet: Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy – What is it?
This condition is the result of damage to your nerves, which can happen for a number of reasons. Diabetes is the most common culprit. Prolonged high blood glucose levels can damage the nerves and cause them to misfire. Other causes of nerve damage include autoimmune diseases, infections like Lyme disease, exposure to toxins or poisons, certain medications, and tumors that put pressure on the nerves. You can also develop peripheral neuropathy because of accidents or sports injuries, kidney and liver problems, or even vitamin deficiencies. The risk increases with alcohol abuse and can also be aggravated by repetitive motions required for your job.
When your nerves are damaged, electrical impulses go awry. They send pain messages to your brain when there is no cause, or fail to deliver sensations of cold, heat, or pain. Your legs, feet, or toes may feel numb. Your muscles may not receive the signals they need to move properly, affecting your mobility and balance. When automatic nerves are affected, even things like your heartbeat, blood pressure, and bladder function may be compromised.
Why do I have numbness and tingling in my feet?
Numbness and tingling is a common symptom of Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy (DPN). The symptoms are usually worse when your glucose level is high. Many diabetics have trouble sleeping as the tingling may keep them awake at night.
Can You Fix Them?
Sometimes radios can be repaired. Put on a new cord, solder the loose connections, replace the aerial, and you may still get some life out of an old favorite. Peripheral neuropathy, on the other hand, has no known cure. Treatments are designed to slow down the progression of the condition and relieve any pain. If you get the underlying condition under control, the neuropathy may improve.
For those with diabetes, this means maintaining strict sugar control. The steadier your glucose levels are, the less the nerves will be damaged. If you exercise, watch your diet closely, control your blood pressure, and follow instructions for any medication for the latter, you may be able to beat the odds (60 to 70 percent of diabetic patients develop neuropathy).
Immunosuppressant drugs may manage diseases like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis and forestall nerve damage. For mild pain, we may prescribe common pain relievers that you can get at the store or more stronger medicines available with a prescription. We may also try anti-seizure medications, lidocaine patches, capsaicin creams, or antidepressants to help control your discomfort.
Here’s a Spark of an Idea: Check Your Feet!
Because you may not feel problems in your feet and legs, it is really important to check them frequently for any cuts, bruises, scrapes, blisters, or other injuries that could turn into an open sore (ulcer) on your feet. Wash, dry, and moisturize your feet every day, carefully checking the tops, sides, bottoms, and spaces between your toes.
At the first sign of a problem, don’t get your wires crossed—call Podiatrist Iain Palmer, have it evaluated, and find out the best way to take care of it. At the Palmer Foot Clinic in Winnipeg, diabetic foot care is one of our specialties, so we have treated many patients who have this type of nerve pain. Give us a call at (204) 697-0649 and set up an appointment, or contact us on our website to request one. We can help you keep your nerves humming along in top form.
Why is it important to maintain a proper glucose level?
Maintaining a proper glucose level is critical. This will allow your body to function more efficiently and will decrease the chance of you developing problems throughout your entire body from your head to your toes. Your eyes, cardio vascular system, kidneys and your feet will all benefits from proper glucose control.
What is checked during a Comprehensive Diabetic Foot Exam (CDFE)?
Below is a list of things that may be checked in your feet during your examination:
- 3 pedal pulses
- Capillary refill time
- Absence of hair growth
- Light touch sensation (using a small monofilament)
- Vibratory sensation (using a tuning fork)
- Muscle strengths
- Pressure points on the feet (using our iStep digital scanner)
- Footwear and inserts or orthotics
- Type of socks you wear