It soon comes around: the quarterly visit to my GP surgery to see the diabetes nursing practitioner.
I was there this morning, having all the tests: urine analysis; blood pressure checked; blood samples taken and sent for analysis; body weight checked.
And of course, I had my feet examined for peripheral neuropathy – which is a condition that affects the nerves and is one of the long-term complications of diabetes.
Our nervous system is complicated; although in basic terms, its function is to transmit signals between different parts of the body. You could say nerves are the pathway from our brain to the rest of our body.
Neuropathy can occur in diabetes patients and mainly affects the feet and the legs – although it has been known to affect the hands and arms of some people. It occurs as a result of high blood glucose levels which then damage the small blood vessels that supply the nerves. It can stop essential nutrients reaching the nerves; the nerve fibres then become damaged or disappear altogether.
We tend not to give much thought to the health complications we could suffer when we are first diagnosed with diabetes. But, diabetes is a progressive disease and if neglected or untreated, neuropathy is just one of the more unpleasant complications that we could suffer.
Not wishing to sound melodramatic: neuropathy can lead to limb amputations; it’s therefore very important that firstly, we take care of our blood sugar and keep it strictly under control; and at the same time, we must take care of our feet.
The primary hazard for a diabetes sufferer who has peripheral neuropathy, is loss of feeling in the feet. It can be dangerous because you may not notice minor injuries caused by:
- Walking around barefoot
- Sharp objects in shoes
- Friction from badly fitting shoes
- Burns from radiators or hot water bottles
How do you know if you have peripheral neuropathy?
The symptoms of peripheral neuropathy include:
- Tingling and numbness
- Loss of ability to feel pain
- Loss of ability to detect changes in temperature
- Loss of coördination – when you lose your joint position sense
- Burning or shooting pains – these may be worse at night time
If you think you may have any of the symptoms it’s a good idea to mention it to your GP. If you would like to know more about peripheral neuropathy: about its diagnosis, its treatment etc. I can recommend logging onto MedicineNet.com.