Nerve Damage – How does diabetes affect the nerves?

One of the major potential health consequences of diabetes is nerve damage, or neuropathy, which results from chronically high blood sugar levels over time. The most common form is peripheral neuropathy, which affects the nerves responsible for sensation in the arms, legs, feet, and hands. Peripheral neuropathy is often checked for with a tuning fork being held against the toes, base of foot and parts of the hand to determine if the person can detect the vibrations. The inability to detect these vibrations indicates nerve damage.

You should also remember to always perform blood tests on the sides of your fingers and not on the tip or the pad, as these are the most sensitive and of the greatest utility.

Neuropathies can also occur in the hips, thighs, or buttocks, on in nerves controlling digestion and other internal bodily functions. People with diabetes (PWD) who develop peripheral neuropathy usually feel numbness in the affected area, followed by tingling or “pins and needles,” and later pain. People with advanced symptoms may also have muscle weakness, difficulty walking and balancing, and a greater susceptibility to injury and infection.

Other neuropathies can cause problems with digestion, urination, sexual response, vision, blood pressure, and heart rate.

Treatments are available to help manage some symptoms and alleviate pain, but it isn’t possible to undo damage to the nerves, only to slow it.

The best approach is to keep blood sugar in a tight range so the likelihood of developing neuropathy is low, and likelihood of existing neuropathy progressing is low