Diabetic neuropathy is nerve damage caused by diabetes. It is a condition that usually damages nerves in your legs and feet as a result of extended periods of time with elevated levels of blood glucose. Depending on which nerves are affected, symptoms of diabetic neuropathy may vary from pain and numbness in the extremities to problems with the digestive system, urinary tract, blood vessels and heart. Though diabetic neuropathy is a serious complication, symptoms may be prevented through a healthy lifestyle and careful control of blood sugar levels.
There are four primary types of diabetic neuropathy. An individual may experience symptoms from one type or more. Most develop gradually and may cause considerable damage before it is noticed. The four types include Peripheral Neuropathy, Autonomic Neuropathy, Radiculoplexus Neuropathy, and Mononeuropathy.
- Peripheral Neuropathy is the most common type. The feet and legs are affected first followed by the hands and arms. Symptoms include numbness, tingling, burning sensation, increased sensitivity to touch, muscle weakness, loss of reflexes, loss of balance, and serious foot problems.
- Autonomic Neuropathy affects the autonomic nervous system which controls multiple organs in the body including the stomach, lungs, intestines, eyes, and heart. Some symptoms are related to dysfunction of an organ system, including bladder problems, constipation, problems regulating body temperature, and increased heart rate while at rest.
- Radiculoplexus Neuropathy affects nerves in the thighs, hips, buttocks or legs, causing sudden pain. This condition is more common in people with type 2 diabetes and the elderly. Symptoms usually occur on one side of the body. Other symptoms include atrophied thigh muscles, difficulty rising from a sitting position, and weight loss.
- Mononeuropathy occurs when there is damage to a specific nerve possibly located in the face, torso, or leg. Though mononeuropathy can be severely painful, it doesn't generally cause long term problems. Symptoms usually dissipate after a few weeks or months. Symptoms include difficulty focusing the eyes, paralysis on one side of the face, pain in the foot, lower back, pelvis, and front of the thigh, chest or abdomen.