Diabetic peripheral neuropathy is a term used to describe nerve damage in the feet often associated with diabetes. Most of the time peripheral neuropathy can be felt as numbness, tremor, weakness, tingling, pain, itching, and pins and needles. These first pain symptoms can worsen to become so severe that patients cannot allow a bedsheet to touch their feet as they sleep. More commonly noticed is the area of numbness in the toes, slowly expands into the foot and leg.
These symptoms are a result of nerve loss. Nerves come in two forms, those relaying feeling information like pain, temperature, or touch and those relaying information to muscles to cause movement. Diabetic peripheral neuropathy usually starts with a loss of feeling with damage to the sensory fibers beginning at the place farthest from the brain: toes, feet, and legs. The numbness will not allow feeling of pain or temperature on the numb areas. As a result, infections develop more easily do to cuts, scrapes, or ulcers that go unnoticed.
There is no perfect treatment for diabetic peripheral neuropathy, which is why maintaining a healthy blood glucose level is important. For most people managing blood glucose levels will slow down or even prevent further nerve damage. This is not the case in everyone, as diabetic peripheral neuropathy is not always caused by poor glucose levels. Management of pain can be a large treatment concern. To combat the pain many doctors focus on prescription drugs that block or slow down pain receptors preventing or lessening the patient's pain. Newer treatments include Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) and Evening Primrose Oil (EPO). These newer treatments help reduce pain and inflammation as well as reduce nerve damage and may be worth talking to your doctor about. Since none of the treatment methods can reverse the damage due to nerves, it is important to practice excellent preventative care. This includes keeping your blood glucose in a healthy range and keeping your feet healthy with daily care and checking numb areas for sores.