Part 1 : Diabetes and Peripheral Neuropathy
As a lead into the start of Diabetes Awareness Week (July 12-18), we here at The Cronulla Podiatry Centre will have a three-part blog aimed at bringing awareness of the effect of type 2 diabetes on not only the feet but to the quality of life of those with the condition. Type 2 diabetes, often referred to as a ‘lifestyle disease’, is the most common form occurring when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin required by the body. Diabetes Australia estimates that 1.1 million Australians currently suffer from type 2 diabetes with 280 new cases reported every day.
Part one will look at a phenomenon called diabetic peripheral neuropathy.
What is diabetic peripheral neuropathy?
This is a complication of uncontrolled diabetes which results in nerve damage in the feet.
What causes it to occur?
Long periods of uncontrolled diabetes, where the body is subjected to high sugar levels, causes damage to protective layers of the large nerve fibres in the body. These protective layers, called myelin sheaths, help nerves conduct messages throughout the body. Damage to these layers affects the function of the nerves which can result in the feet becoming numb with a loss of sensation or overly sensitive. Other things that can potentially contribute to the development of neuropathy includes a lack of vitamin B12, excessive alcohol consumption and certain medications.
Are there different types?
There are two main types that can present as two extremes.
Painless neuropathy presents as a gradual numbness in the feet. Usually this numbness means that you cannot feel regular aches and pains or damage to your feet that can be caused by sharp objects, infections or blisters. This means that any small damage to the feet can go unnoticed and be made worse by further weight bearing activity.
Painful neuropathy is often described as pins and needles or a burning sensation in the feet and toes. The symptoms can be made worse by simple activities and may feel like you are walking on cotton wool. This condition may keep you from doing your regular activities so a supportive management plan is key.
What are the treatments available?
The key part of treatment is to reduce discomfort and risk of further nerve damage. Improving your quality of life may require a team care approach for a personalised care plan. It all starts with improving and maintaining a healthy blood sugar level. A podiatrist, working alongside your GP, can take you through medications, physical and alternative therapies appropriate for your condition.
By Anel Kapur