Diabetes is a disease that is characterized by the inability of the body to regulate the blood sugar levels, mainly due to either lack of or decreased sensitivity to the insulin hormone. The insulin hormone is mainly produced by the pancreas and the production is regulated by a complex mechanism.
It is a disease which affects the entire body and if the blood sugar levels stands above normal, for a considerable period of time, then the complications starts. Diabetic neuropathy is one such condition where the nerves are affected due to persistent excess glucose in the blood. The diabetic neuropathy is not focused on a single system, rather there are a wide variety of functions that are hampered.
How Does Diabetes Affect The Nerves?
Diabetes affects the nerves in two different ways. But the root cause of neuropathy is again due to excess blood glucose levels. The micro vascular injury is one way that often leads to neuropathy. The small blood vessels that supply the nerves are damaged. Constriction of the blood vessels or deposits forming on these blood vessels all lead to micro vascular injury. The other type of injury to the nerves is macro vascular injury.
Complications Of Diabetic Neuropathy
Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy
The most common and the most widely known complication of diabetes is peripheral neuropathy. In peripheral neuropathy, the part of the body that is most affected are the legs and feet. Neuropathy involves damage to bones, so peripheral neuropathy is associated with loss of sensations in the affected part.
So when the foot is cut or any injury occurs to the leg or foot, the damage to the nerves renders the part insensitive to pain. So a small cut or bruise often goes unnoticed. This could lead to the development of diabetic ulcer, which is yet another complication of diabetes. The symptoms that helps in identifying the development of peripheral neuropathy would be numbness, tingling, burning sensation in the legs and pain.
Diabetic Autonomic Neuropathy
Diabetic autonomic neuropathy affects several organs like the stomach, blood vessels, urinary organs and the sex organs.When the stomach is involved there is often flatulence and bloating, constipation or diarrhea and other symptoms normally linked to acidity like heart burn, nausea etc.
If the autonomic neuropathy invilves the blood vessels that would cause dizziness and fainting spells. The autonomic neuropathy of the bladder is mainly linked with frequency of urination or leaking of urine involuntarily. There is impotence or loss of libido in those who have neuropathy of the sex organs.
Other Complications Of Diabetic Neuropathy
Since the nerves are involved, neuropathy involves almost all the organs. The vision may be affected by neuropathy causing double vision or loss of vision. There may be aphasia or difficulty in swallowing too depending on which nerve is affected. Bell’s palsy is another result of focal neuropathy in diabetes.
There may be pain in legs or thighs due to diabetic proximal neuropathy. Carpal tunnel syndrome is another complication of diabetic neuropathy in which the median nerve gets trapped in the carpal tunnel which is situated near the wrist.This results again in pain and numbness.