Diabetes can lead to many health complications. One that it commonly causes over time is neuropathy, which is a disease of the sensory system where the nerves become damaged. If you are diabetic, you need to watch out for diabetic neuropathy. This is because the nerves are crucial to all our lives. They allow us to move, feel sensations and transmit pain to warn us of possible harm. Nerves also control vital functions inside our bodies like the heartbeat, digestion, breathing and so on.
Diabetic neuropathy affects the ability to feel sensations of touch, temperature and pain, while also impairing mobility. Most often, it affects the nerves in the legs and feet because they have the longest nerves in the body and therefore carry a higher risk of nerve damage.
In the early stages of diabetic neuropathy, there may be a tingling sensation, numbness or coldness in the hands and feet. Later, you may experience loss of sensation or pain. Sometimes however, people who have diabetic neuropathy show no symptoms at all.
Causes of diabetic neuropathy
Our nerve cells need large quantities of nutrients and B vitamins to function properly. The supply is normally not a problem in a healthy person. In diabetics however, the prolonged exposure to high blood sugar damages the delicate nerve cells. The longer a person has diabetes, the worse the nerve damage becomes.
In addition to this, other risk factors include high levels of blood fat, high blood pressure and being obese or overweight.
Serious consequences for diabetics
As diabetic neuropathy progresses, the initial tingling may be replaced by burning pain that lasts through the night due to the total failure of individual nerves. This can affect the diabetic’s quality of life. There may also be loss of sensation and feeling. Sores and small injuries can then go unnoticed and become badly ulcerated, infected and difficult to heal. The healing process is also compromised by poorer circulation in diabetics. Eventually, the infection can become impossible to treat and amputation of the toe, foot or even lower leg may be necessary.
Loss of limb is unfortunately one of the most common complications of diabetic neuropathy. Over 60% of all non-traumatic lower limb amputations performed every year in the US are due to diabetes. While you may know that diabetes can lead to amputation, you may not know that the actual cause of amputation is nerve damage. This can actually be avoided.
Other complications of diabetic neuropathy to watch out for include joint deformities, sharp pain and extreme sensitivity of limbs, urinary tract infections, incontinence, low blood pressure, digestive problems, sexual dysfunction, eye complications and more.
A common problem
According to the World Health Organisation, diabetic neuropathy is the most common complication of diabetes1. It is the greatest source of morbidity and mortality amongst diabetics and has been implicated in 50 to 75% of non-traumatic amputations2.
Treating or slowing down neuropathy
If you have diabetes, diabetic neuropathy and its complications can be avoided by controlling your blood sugar levels very carefully and adopting a healthy lifestyle. You also need to get plenty of vitamin B1, B6 and B12 through the diet or a supplement. Together, they play a crucial role in treating or delaying diabetic neuropathy.
Diabetics are often deficient in vitamin B1. This is because vitamin B1 is necessary for carbohydrate metabolism. As a result, it is rapidly depleted in diabetics due to high demand by cells needing to control the high glucose levels. Reduced levels of vitamin B1 can lead to nerve damage. Deficiency of vitamin B6 is common if a person already has diabetic neuropathy. It is necessary for proper conduction of nerve impulses and helps to relieve pain. It also helps the body’s glucose transport system and without enough of it, glucose levels in the body will remain high. Diabetics are often also deficient in vitamin B12, which helps protect nerves and is important for overall nerve health
Health supplement with a combination of vitamins B1, B6 and B12 is clinically proven to nourish your nerve cells, help improve nerve function and relieve nerve pain. It can help you to slow down and even treat the damage of your nerve cells caused by high blood sugar. It can help you to avoid the consequences of diabetic neuropathy and enjoy a better quality of life.
1 Diabetes Mellitus Fact sheet No.138.
2 (Vinik AI, Park TS, Stansberry KB et al. Diabetic neuropathies. Diabetologia. 2000;43:957-73.)