If you’re one of the millions of Americans with diabetes, you already know a lot about your condition. You probably also know the importance of managing your weight, watching your diet, and monitoring your blood sugar, but many people don’t know what happens if they lose control of these factors.
Our team of specialists at Neuropathy and Pain Centers of Texas often sees the effects of uncontrolled diabetes, and one of the problems is neuropathy, or nerve damage. Here’s a closer look at the relationship between diabetes and your nerves.
In case it’s been a while since you first learned about diabetes, we’re starting off with a quick refresher course. Diabetes affects how your body processes glucose, a type of sugar that’s the primary source of energy for your cells. Depending on which type of diabetes you have, your body either doesn't produce enough insulin (a hormone that regulates glucose) or can’t use it effectively.
Either way, it means that glucose builds up in your bloodstream. Your body can’t handle these high sugar levels for long, and you start noticing various symptoms and complications, like frequent urination, increased thirst, fatigue, blurred vision, slow-healing wounds, and even organ damage.
The link between diabetes and neuropathy
The reason peripheral neuropathy is so common among diabetics is that high levels of glucose in the blood damage the small blood vessels and nerves in your limbs, and suddenly you feel tingling, numbness, and pain in your extremities. If you have a severe case, you could even experience muscle weakness or paralysis.
Unfortunately, up to 50% of people with diabetes develop peripheral neuropathy at some point, and the damage can become permanent over time, meaning you could face long-term complications. This is a sobering statistic. It’s also a valuable motivation to learn more about the relationship between diabetes and peripheral neuropathy — because the more you know, the better prepared you are to prevent it, recognize it, and treat it.
Treatments for diabetes-related peripheral neuropathy
Before we recommend a specific treatment, our Neuropathy and Pain Centers of Texas team takes the time to evaluate your overall health, medical history, and symptoms. Depending on what we discover, we may suggest any combination of the following treatments.
Cold laser therapy
With cold laser therapy, we use low-level lasers to stimulate your cells and reduce inflammation. It’s not only noninvasive and painless; it actually alleviates your pain and promotes healing. You may require multiple sessions of cold laser therapy to achieve the full effect.
M6 MLS® (multi-wave locked system) robotic laser
The M6 MLS laser is a high-tech, robotic laser that uses a combination of wavelengths to relieve pain and repair damaged tissue. This treatment is also noninvasive and typically painless. As with cold laser therapy, you may need several sessions to achieve optimal results.
When diabetic neuropathy causes pain, it can be tough to find a treatment that relieves it. Because the pain stems from damaged nerves, OTC medications typically don’t resolve it. That’s when we turn to nerve block injections. This quick-acting treatment contains a local anesthetic that immediately numbs the area, bringing rapid relief and a steroid that reduces inflammation to quell your pain for weeks or months.
Since diet and diabetes go hand-in-hand, we offer nutritional counseling to help you develop a diabetes-friendly meal plan. Eating well can actually control inflammation and help you ward off peripheral neuropathy.
Advanced stimulators are devices that send electrical impulses to your nerves to reduce pain and improve nerve function. Two of the most effective noninvasive treatments are electrical stimulation (e-stim) and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). Spinal cord stimulation is another option, but it requires a permanently implanted device that targets the nerves in your spinal cord and disrupts pain signals before they go to your brain.
Our pain and neuropathy experts work closely with you to determine which treatment is best for your diabetes-related neuropathy. Call any of our four Texas locations in Arlington, Fort Worth, Waco, or Wichita Falls, or request an appointment online.