Diabetes, which affects more than 37 million people in the United States, can be a life-altering disease thanks to its many potential complications. From losing your eyesight to serious cardiovascular disease, diabete casts a very wide net over your health.
One of the more common complications to come out of diabetes is nerve damage, also called peripheral neuropathy, which affects up to half of people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Here at Valliant Life Medical, our team specializes in treating peripheral neuropathy, which is one aspect of diabetic care, and we want to share some of what we’ve learned over the years in terms of better managing (and even preventing) this side effect of diabetes.
So, here are a few best practices for halting, preventing, and managing diabetic peripheral neuropathy.
The road to damaged nerves
Before we get into best practices, we first want to quickly review why your peripheral nerves are in the line of fire with diabetes. When you have this condition, the levels of glucose in your bloodstream are unregulated because of a lack of insulin and/or insulin resistance.
When you have higher-than-normal blood sugar levels, it can damage blood vessels, especially those that service your peripheral nervous system. When this happens, your nerves become damaged. This typically happens first in areas that are farthest from your heart and your central nervous system, such as in your extremities — arms, hands, legs, and feet.
Fighting back against peripheral neuropathy
While half of people with diabetes do develop nerve damage, we want you to know that there are ways to prevent it, as well as better slow and manage it should you develop peripheral neuropathy.
Some best practices include:
1. Stay on top of your blood sugar
The most important step you can take is to pay close attention to the levels of glucose in your system. Managing blood sugar is at the heart of preventing all the complications that are associated with diabetes, and it’s the best place to start for peripheral neuropathy.
2. Manage other areas of your health
Since peripheral neuropathy involves your cardiovascular health, it’s paramount to address other issues, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol. You might pat yourself on your back for keeping your glucose levels in check, but if you aren’t addressing hypertension or cholesterol, nerve damage can still develop.
These steps include literal ones — more exercise — and reducing sugars and unhealthy processed foods in your diet in favor of fruits, vegetables, grains, and lean proteins.
Lastly, quit smoking if you’re a smoker. This one step can greatly improve your cardiovascular and overall health.
3. Take care of your feet
If you have diabetes and peripheral neuropathy is a threat, get rid of any shoe that’s crowding your feet (pointy toes, high heels) in favor of shoes that allow your feet room to breathe and your toes to spread out.
In addition to comfortable, roomy shoes, take good care of your feet — wash and inspect them daily. When you have nerve damage, you might not be aware of wounds, and even the slightest injury can become a major problem.
4. Build the right team
When you have diabetes, you’d do well to surround yourself with experts that understand the many complications of this condition. At our practice, we have extensive experience with nerve damage, and we’re equipped with the diagnostic, preventive, and treatment tools you need to maximize your health.
Through physical therapy, regenerative medicine, and vigilant oversight, we’re with you every step of the way in preventing or managing peripheral neuropathy.
To learn more about best practices when it comes to peripheral neuropathy, we invite you to contact our office in Fort Worth, Texas, to set up an appointment.