Diabetic Neuropathy Treatment in Santa Monica, CA
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 29 million people in the United States have diabetes, which requires a strict diet to manage blood sugar and prevent serious health complications.
If your diabetes is causing pain or tingling in your arms, abdomen, back, or feet, you may have diabetic neuropathy. This condition is a common but serious complication of diabetes that occurs from long-term high blood sugar levels damaging your nerves.
A specialist can help you manage your blood sugar and reduce or eliminate your diabetic neuropathy symptoms to avoid dramatic complications like amputation. To speak with a specialist in Santa Monica today, call (424) 365-1800 or contact Dr. Jeremy Fischer online.
What Are the Symptoms of Diabetic Neuropathy?
If you’re a diabetic neuropathy patient you may have only one type or you may have multiple types of the condition, which develop slowly over time, and which you may not be conscious of until significant damage has been done.
This type of neuropathy affects your legs and feet, and rarely affects your arms, abdomen, or back. Symptoms include physical sensations like tingling, pain, burning (especially in the evening), and numbness that may become permanent.
This neuropathy affects nerves in the autonomous system which controls your stomach, intestines, heart, bladder, lungs, eyes, and sex organs.
- bladder problems from urinary tract infections or incontinence
- constipation or diarrhea
- lack of awareness that your blood sugar levels are low (hypoglycemia unawareness)
- slow stomach emptying that may cause nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite
- swallowing difficulties
- erectile dysfunction
- vaginal dryness
- increased or decreased sweating
- low blood pressure after sitting or standing, causing fainting or lightheadedness
- increased resting heart rate
This type affects the nerves in your legs, thighs, hips, or buttocks and is more common in people with type 2 diabetes and older adults.
Symptoms usually begin on one side of the body and include:
- sudden, intense pain in the leg, hip, thigh, or buttock
- weak and atrophied thigh muscle
- difficulty standing up from a sitting position
- swollen abdomen (if that area is affected)
- unexplained weight loss
Most patients recover at least partially from their symptoms over time, though symptoms often worsen before improving.
Focal diabetic neuropathy is more common in older adults and occurs suddenly. This type involves damage to a specific nerve in your face, abdomen, or leg; it can also occur if a nerve gets compressed, especially in the hand (carpal tunnel).
- pain behind one eye
- double vision
- difficulty focusing your vision
- paralysis on one side of your face (Bell’s palsy)
- foot pain, as well as pain in your shin, lower back, pelvis, thigh, abdomen, or chest
Though this condition can cause severe pain, it generally doesn’t present long-term problems. Symptoms can improve or intensify over weeks and months, depending on which nerve is affected.
What Causes Diabetic Neuropathy?
When your blood sugar levels are too high for too long, the overabundance of glucose can injure your body’s nerve fibers, resulting in tingling, numbness, and pain.
The greatest risk factor for all diabetes complications is poor blood sugar control. Other diabetic neuropathy causes include:
- duration of diabetes: longer periods of having diabetes increases your risk
- kidney disease: diabetes can damage your kidneys, increasing toxins in your blood and contributing to nerve damage
- obesity: a body mass index greater than 24 can increase your risk
- nerve inflammation: your autoimmune system attacking part of your body can cause nerve pain
Smoking and drinking can also damage nerves and blood vessels.
How Is Diabetic Neuropathy Diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will access your muscle strength and tone, tendon reflexes, and sensitivity to touch. If diabetic neuropathy is suspected, he or she may perform these tests:
- filament test: a soft monofilament fiber tests your touch sensitivity
- nerve conduction: measures how quickly your limb nerves conduct electrical signals
- electromyography (EMG): typically performed with nerve conduction to measure muscles electrical discharges
- quantitative sensory testing: assesses how your nerves respond to vibration and temperature changes
Autonomic testing is used to diagnose diabetic autonomic neuropathy by testing your blood pressure and sweating ability.
Diabetic Neuropathy Complications
A common complication of diabetic neuropathy is limb loss from amputation. Reduced blood flow from diabetes causes nerve damage in your feet, making it difficult to notice cuts, sores, and injuries that occur there. If these injuries become severely infected, the infection can spread to your bone or cause gangrene (tissue death).
Other complications include:
- Charcot joint: nerve damage makes a foot joint deteriorate, causing loss of sensation, swelling, instability, and deformity
- urinary tract infections and incontinence : damage to bladder nerves can prevent it from emptying completely, promoting bacteria growth
- hypoglycemia unawareness: autonomic neuropathy can interfere with your ability to notice low blood sugar symptoms like weakness and shakiness
- <strong>low blood pressure</strong> : damaged nerves that control your circulatory system can harm your body’s ability to manage blood pressure, causing dizziness or fainting
- digestive problems: damaged nerves can cause constipation, vomiting, appetite loss, gastroparesis (when the stomach empties too slowly or not at all), and abnormal nutrition levels
- <strong>sexual dysfunction</strong> : autonomic neuropathy frequently damages sexual organ nerves
- increased or decreased sweating: damage to your sweat glands from autonomic neuropathy can cause a potentially life-threatening lack of perspiration or excessive sweating (especially at night or while eating)
How Is Diabetic Neuropathy Treated?
No cure exists for diabetic neuropathy, so treatment typically focuses on prevention, slowing progression, pain relief, and managing complications.
Prevention and slowing progression
Over half of patients who’ve had diabetes for 20 years will suffer from diabetic neuropathy. It’s crucial to closely monitor your blood sugar and take your insulin on time.
Keeping your blood sugar and blood pressure under control while increasing circulation can help slow down or disrupt the progression of diabetic neuropathy. This can be done by:
- following a healthy and nutritious diet
- getting plenty of exercise to increase circulation
- maintaining a healthy weight
- quitting smoking
- limiting your alcohol intake
Early symptoms of diabetic peripheral neuropathy typically improve when your blood sugar is at manageable levels.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved several diabetic neuropathy medications and treatments that can relieve nerve pain. None are effective for all patients, and most have side effects:
- anti-seizure medications: gabapentin, pregabalin, and carbamazepine can treat nerve pain; side effects include drowsiness, dizziness, and swelling
- antidepressants: amitriptyline, desipramine, and imipramine may relieve mild or moderate symptoms, but can cause side effects like dry mouth, sweating, and constipation; duloxetine can relieve pain with fewer side effects, but can cause nausea, sleepiness, and dizziness
- opioids: pregabalin, and tapentadol have high risk of addiction
- <strong>acupuncture</strong> : by stimulating pressure points in the nervous system acu needles release endorphins (natural painkillers) in brain, spine, and muscles
- transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS): tiny electrical impulses can help prevent pain signals from reaching your brain
Other pain management treatment that your healthcare provider can help you manage include:
- capsaicin cream: found in chili peppers – depletes substance P, the chemical pain transmitter in the brain; can irritate skin
- alpha-lipoic acid: an antioxidant that can improve insulin resistance and reduce pain
- homeopathic therapy: hypericum perforatum treats finger and toe pain; aconite: treats burning and tingling; belladonna: treats sudden hip, thigh, and back pain
- magnesium phosphate: treats spasms and muscle cramps
As foot problems are common among diabetic neuropathy patients, annua; foot exams are important. To avoid foot problems:
- look for blisters, bruises, cracked skin, redness, or swelling on your feet daily
- keep your feet clean, dry, and moisturized to help prevent cracking and fungus
- trim your nails carefully, as ingrown nails or sharp edges can cause injuries
- wear well-fitting cushioned shoes to protect your feet to prevent blisters and sores
Speaking to a therapist, mental help counselor, or support group may also help you cope with the chronic pain caused by your condition.
Reserve Your Appointment Now
Diabetic neuropathy is a common but serious complication of diabetes that can cause severe pain that can interfere with your quality of life. Thankfully, there are numerous ways to address symptoms.
To learn how a specialist in Santa Monica can help control or eliminate your diabetic neuropathy pain, call today at (424) 365-1800 or contact Dr. Jeremy Fischer online.
Vitality Integrative Medicine
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