You’ve got some nerve
Gerald W. Deas M.D., MPH | 6/12/2014, 10:56 a.m.
In my family, when someone did something outrageous, you would hear the expression, “You’ve got some nerve.” Well, in the family of diseases, when diabetes insults our body, it also has some nerve—and can affect nerves throughout the body. The nerve pathology can occur in the feet, legs, heart, stomach and brain, and even in the bladder, causing you to experience symptoms.
When the nerves of a diabetic person become infiltrated with an unknown substance, they become very irritated and cannot conduct the impulses to different parts of the body. A common anatomical structure that becomes obviously involved is the feet. This medical condition is known as diabetic neuropathy and is caused by poor control of blood sugar.
It is, therefore, important to keep the blood sugar level in the normal range of 80 to 100 mg/dL. A very specific test, known as hemoglobin A1C, or HbA1C, also should be done at certain intervals. The results should not be above 7 percent. This level ensures that the blood sugar is being carefully controlled.
Early signs of diabetic neuropathy in the feet are numbness, burning, skin changes, uncomfortable tingling and poor healing. It is very important to examine one’s feet daily and pay close attention to small sores. Something small could have a large hidden base, which can lead to bone infection. Tight shoes should be avoided. Cotton socks are preferable because they absorb moisture.
Frequent visits to a podiatrist will ensure that early signs of diabetic neuropathy are noticed. It is important, however, that you examine your own feet daily. Avoid bathing feet in extremely hot water. It is preferable to bathe in lukewarm water and massage the feet with witch hazel.
Do not do any minor surgery on your toenails. It is extremely important not to walk barefooted around the house. Carpets and floors are loaded with germs that are brought in on the bottoms of shoes. Good nutrition is a must. Taking adequate amounts of vitamin A, C, E and B complex will ensure a healthy immune system to fight off infections.
Diabetic neuropathy can be prevented by good blood sugar control. If, however, it does occur, it can be uncomfortable. There are many medications that can be prescribed by your physician, such as amitriptyline, carbamazepine, duloxetine, imipramine and valproic acid. These names might be strange to you, but you should be aware that they are available to help treat this condition.
Finally, don’t allow diabetes to get on your last nerve! Good glucose control and care of your feet will prevent uncomfortable symptoms of diabetic neuropathy.