Diabetic neuropathy is when the nerves are damaged by high blood glucose. When this happens the resulting problems are referred to as diabetic neuropathy. This can affect you in several ways as it includes damage to the nerves controlling your muscles, damage to the nerves which control your sensory feeling and damage to nerves which control automatic functions such as your heart rate.
The symptoms of diabetic neuropathy are very varied because we have so many different nerves. A common complaint is hypersensitivity of the feet producing a burning or hot sensation. The opposite can happen where people lose sensation in the feet and the feet feel strange when walking or numb to touch. When the perception of heat is lost there is a very real danger of causing damage to your feet just by being too close to the fire or keeping your feet too long on a hot water bottle. Feet with evidence of diabetic neuropathy therefore are at high risk of developing ulcers, infections or traumatic damage.
The assessment of diabetic neuropathy by your doctor is quite complex and involves a series of tests on individual nerves and their function. A simple examination will often indicate whether there are clinical signs such as muscle wasting or sensory loss but often more sophisticated tests such as nerve conduction studies are required. A blood test is usually also requested so as to rule out the presence of neuropathy caused by other metabolic problems such as vitamin B12 deficiency.
The treatment of neuropathy depends specifically on the problem presented. In all cases, however, prevention of further neurological damage is a priority and in this respect improving the control of blood glucose levels represents the single most effective tool. Treatment of painful neuropathic symptoms of the feet is one of the most common problems and to do this there are a number of analgesic strategies available.